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- The Land of the Blue Flower - 2/4 -
So the King learned to love the storm and be one with it, knowing no fear.
But perhaps--it might be because he had been laid on the scented moss and had without knowing it saluted them on the first night of his life-- he felt nearest to, and loved most, his brothers the stars.
Every fair night through the King's earliest years the Ancient One carried him to the battlements and let him fall asleep beneath the shining myriads. But first he would walk about bearing him in his arms, or sit with him in the splendid silence, sometimes relating wonders to him in a low voice, sometimes uttering no word, only looking calmly into the high vault above as if the stars spoke to him and told him of perfect peace.
"When a man looks long at them," he said, "he grows calm and forgets small things. They answer his questions and show him that his earth is only one of the million worlds. Hold your soul still and look upward often, and you will understand their speech. Never forget the stars."
So, as the child King grew day by day, the world seemed to grow fuller and fuller of wonders and beauties. There were the sun and the moon, the storm and the stars, the straight falling lances of rain, the springing of the growing things, the flight of the eagle, the songs and nests of small bird creatures, the changing seasons, and the work of the great brown earth giving its harvest and its fruits.
"All these wonders in one world and you a man upon it," said the Ancient One. "Hold high your head when you walk, young King, and often look upward. Never forget one marvel among them all."
He forgot nothing. He lived looking out on all things from great, clear, joyous eyes. Upon his mountain crag he never heard a paltry or unbeautiful word or knew of the existence of unfriendliness or baseness in thought. As soon as he was old enough to go out alone he roamed about the great mountain and feared neither storm nor wild beasts. Shaggy- maned lions and their mates drew near and fawned on him as their kind had fawned on young Adam in the Garden of Eden. There had never passed through his mind the thought that they were not his friends.
He did not know that there were men who killed their wild brothers. In the huge courtyard of the castle he learned to ride and to perform great feats of strength. Because he had not learned to be afraid he never feared that he could not do a thing. He grew so strong and beautiful that when he was ten years old he was as tall as a youth of sixteen, and when he was sixteen he was already like a young giant. This was because he had been brother to the storm and had lived close to the strength and splendor of the stars.
Only once, when he was a boy of twelve, a strange and painful thing happened to him. From his kingdom in the plains below there had been sent to him a beautiful young horse which had been bred for him. Never had so magnificent an animal been born in the royal stable. When he was brought into the courtyard the boy King's eyes shone with joy. He spent the greater part of the morning in exercising and leaping him over barriers. The Ancient One in his tower chamber heard his shouts of exultation and encouragement. At last the King went out to try him on the winding mountain road.
When he returned he went at once to the tower chamber to the Ancient One, who, when he raised his eyes from his great book, looked at him gravely.
"Let us climb to the battlements," the boy said. "We must talk together."
So they went, and when they stood looking out on the world below, the curving turquoise sky above them, the eyes of the Ancient One were still more grave.
"Tell me, young King."
"Something strange has happened," King Amor answered. "I have felt something I have not felt before. I was riding my horse around the field on the plateau and he saw something which he refused to pass. It was a young leopard watching us from a tree. My horse reared and snorted. He would not listen to me, but backed and wheeled around. I tried in vain to persuade him, and suddenly, when I saw I could not make him obey me, this strange new feeling rushed through all my body. I grew hot and knew my face was scarlet, my heart beat faster and my blood seemed to boil in my veins. I shouted out harsh, ugly sounds--I forgot that all things are brothers--I lifted my hand and clenched it and struck my horse again and again. I loved him no longer, I felt that he no longer loved me. I am hot and wearied and heavy from it still. I feel no more joy. Was it pain I felt? I have never felt pain and do not know. Was it pain?"
"It was a worse thing," answered the Ancient One. "It was anger. When a man is overcome by anger he has a poisoned fever. He loses his strength, he loses his power over himself and over others, he throws away time in which he might have gained the end he most desires. THERE IS NO TIME FOR ANGER IN THE WORLD."
So King Amor learned the uselessness of anger, for they sat long upon the battlements while the Ancient One told him how its poison worked in the veins and weakened the strongest man until he was made a fool. That night Amor lay under the sky looking at his myriad brothers, the stars, and drawing calm from them.
"If you lie through the night upon the battlements and think only of the stillness and the stars you will forget your anger and its poison will die away. If you put into your mind a beautiful thought it will take the place of the evil one. There is no room for darkness in the mind of him who thinks only of the stars." This had been said to him by the Ancient One.
Upon the plateau at the foot of the crag on which the castle stood there were marvelous walled gardens. The sad young Queen of the first King Mordreth had planted them, and after her death they had been left to run wild. Since the baby King Amor had been brought to the mountain top the Ancient One and his servitor had made them bloom again. As soon as he was old enough to hold a small spade Amor had worked in the beds. All things grew for him as if his touch were a spell; birds and bees and butterflies flocked round him as he labored. He knew what the bees hummed and where they flew to load themselves with honey; butterflies lighted upon his hands and taught him strange things. Birds told him of their travels, and brought him seeds from far countries which he planted in his gardens and which bloomed into marvelous flowers. A swallow who loved him very much and who had seen many wonderful lands once brought him a seed from an emperor's secret garden which none but four of his own slaves had ever seen. These slaves had been born in the garden and would never leave it while they lived.
King Amor planted the seed in a pleasaunce of its own. It grew into the most beautiful blue flower the world had ever known. It was of a blue so pure and exquisitely intense that it was rapture to look at it. Its blossoms hung from a tall stem and in its first year it gave a thousand seeds. Each year Amor planted more flowers and each year they grew taller and more wonderful and blossomed a longer time. When the summer wind blew it shook out clouds of delicate fragrance which sometimes floated down the mountain until the wretched dwellers in King Mordreth's land forgot their quarrels and misery and even lifted their heavy heads to inhale it and ask each other what was being done upon the mountain. Each year King Amor gathered the seeds and stored them in an unused tower of his castle.
Taller and stronger he grew and each day wiser and more beautiful. Each plant, each weed, each four-footed thing, each wind, each star of heaven taught him its wonders and its wisdom. His eyes were so marvelous in their straight-glanced splendor that when he looked at a man they seemed to read his soul and command its truth to answer him. He was so powerful that he could break an iron bar in two pieces with his hands.
When he was twenty years old the Ancient One took him up on the battlements, and giving him a strong glass told him to look down upon the capital city on the plain and see what was being done there.
"I see many people gathered in crowds," Amor said, when he had looked for a few moments. "I see bright colors and waving pennants and triumphal arches. It is as if some great ceremony were being prepared for."
"The people are making ready for your coronation," said the Ancient One. "To-morrow you will be led in state down the mountain and acclaimed King. It was to fit you to reign over your kingdom that I taught you to know all the wonders of the world and have shown you that no thing is useless but folly and dishonoring thought. That which you have learned from your brothers here you go down the mountain to teach your brothers there. You will see things which are not beautiful and those which are unclean, but hold high your head when you walk, young King, and never forget the sun, the wind, and the stars."
To himself as he looked on him the Ancient One said: "When he stands before them they will think he is a young god."
The next morning a splendid procession wound its glittering way up the mountain road to the castle. There were princes and nobles and chieftains. Rich colors glowed in their attire and gorgeous banners and pennants waved over them, while music from gold and silver trumpets accompanied them as they rode and their many followers marched behind.
The Ancient One in his long robe of gray stood by King Amor on the broad stone terrace guarded by its crouching carved lions.
"This is your King, O people!" he said.
And when the people looked it was as he had said it would be. They drew back a little and gazed in fear, and many of the followers fell upon their knees. They thought they saw a beautiful young giant and god. But he was only a splendid and powerful young man who had never known a dark thought and had lived near to his brothers the stars. His horse, adorned with golden trappings, was brought and he was led down the mountain side, through the gates into the capital city of his kingdom. He desired that the Ancient One should ride by his side.
What he saw as he rode to the place of coronation he had never seen before. Notwithstanding the embroidered silk and velvet hangings decorating the fronts of the rich people's houses, he caught glimpses of filthy side streets, squalid alleys, and tumble-down tenements. He saw forlorn little children scud away like rats into their holes as he drew near, and wretched, vicious-looking men and women fighting with each other for places in the crowd. Sharp, miserable faces peered round corners at him, and nobody smiled because every one hated or distrusted his neighbor, and they dreaded and disliked the young King because all
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