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- Don Rodriguez - 1/41 -
CHRONICLES OF SHADOW VALLEY
By LORD DUNSANY
To WILLIAM BEEBE
After long and patient research I am still unable to give to the reader of these Chronicles the exact date of the times that they tell of. Were it merely a matter of history there could be no doubts about the period; but where magic is concerned, to however slight an extent, there must always be some element of mystery, arising partly out of ignorance and partly from the compulsion of those oaths by which magic protects its precincts from the tiptoe of curiosity.
Moreover, magic, even in small quantities, appears to affect time, much as acids affect some metals, curiously changing its substance, until dates seem to melt into a mercurial form that renders them elusive even to the eye of the most watchful historian.
It is the magic appearing in Chronicles III and IV that has gravely affected the date, so that all I can tell the reader with certainty of the period is that it fell in the later years of the Golden Age in Spain.
THE FIRST CHRONICLE HOW HE MET AND SAID FAREWELL TO MINE HOST OF THE DRAGON AND KNIGHT
THE SECOND CHRONICLE HOW HE HIRED A MEMORABLE SERVANT
THE THIRD CHRONICLE HOW HE CAME TO THE HOUSE OF WONDER
THE FOURTH CHRONICLE HOW HE CAME TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE SUN
THE FIFTH CHRONICLE HOW HE RODE IN THE TWILIGHT AND SAW SERAFINA
THE SIXTH CHRONICLE HOW HE SANG TO HIS MANDOLIN AND WHAT CAME OF HIS SINGING
THE SEVENTH CHRONICLE HOW HE CAME TO SHADOW VALLEY
THE EIGHTH CHRONICLE HOW HE TRAVELLED FAR
THE NINTH CHRONICLE HOW HE WON A CASTLE IN SPAIN
THE TENTH CHRONICLE HOW HE CAME BACK TO LOWLIGHT
THE ELEVENTH CHRONICLE HOW HE TURNED TO GARDENING AND HIS SWORD RESTED
THE TWELFTH CHRONICLE THE BUILDING OF CASTLE RODRIGUEZ AND THE ENDING OF THESE CHRONICLES
THE FIRST CHRONICLE
HOW HE MET AND SAID FAREWELL TO MINE HOST OF THE DRAGON AND KNIGHT
Being convinced that his end was nearly come, and having lived long on earth (and all those years in Spain, in the golden time), the Lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez, whose heights see not Valladolid, called for his eldest son. And so he addressed him when he was come to his chamber, dim with its strange red hangings and august with the splendour of Spain: "O eldest son of mine, your younger brother being dull and clever, on whom those traits that women love have not been bestowed by God; and know my eldest son that here on earth, and for ought I know Hereafter, but certainly here on earth, these women be the arbiters of all things; and how this be so God knoweth only, for they are vain and variable, yet it is surely so: your younger brother then not having been given those ways that women prize, and God knows why they prize them for they are vain ways that I have in my mind and that won me the Valleys of Arguento Harez, from whose heights Angelico swore he saw Valladolid once, and that won me moreover also ... but that is long ago and is all gone now ... ah well, well ... what was I saying?" And being reminded of his discourse, the old lord continued, saying, "For himself he will win nothing, and therefore I will leave him these my valleys, for not unlikely it was for some sin of mine that his spirit was visited with dullness, as Holy Writ sets forth, the sins of the fathers being visited on the children; and thus I make him amends. But to you I leave my long, most flexible, ancient Castilian blade, which infidels dreaded if old songs be true. Merry and lithe it is, and its true temper singeth when it meets another blade as two friends sing when met after many years. It is most subtle, nimble and exultant; and what it will not win for you in the wars, that shall be won for you by your mandolin, for you have a way with it that goes well with the old airs of Spain. And choose, my son, rather a moonlight night when you sing under those curved balconies that I knew, ah me, so well; for there is much advantage in the moon. In the first place maidens see in the light of the moon, especially in the Spring, more romance than you might credit, for it adds for them a mystery to the darkness which the night has not when it is merely black. And if any statue should gleam on the grass near by, or if the magnolia be in blossom, or even the nightingale singing, or if anything be beautiful in the night, in any of these things also there is advantage; for a maiden will attribute to her lover all manner of things that are not his at all, but are only outpourings from the hand of God. There is this advantage also in the moon, that, if interrupters come, the moonlight is better suited to the play of a blade than the mere darkness of night; indeed but the merry play of my sword in the moonlight was often a joy to see, it so flashed, so danced, so sparkled. In the moonlight also one makes no unworthy stroke, but hath scope for those fair passes that Sevastiani taught, which were long ago the wonder of Madrid."
The old lord paused, and breathed for a little space, as it were gathering breath for his last words to his son. He breathed deliberately, then spoke again. "I leave you," he said, "well content that you have the two accomplishments, my son, that are most needful in a Christian man, skill with the sword and a way with the mandolin. There be other arts indeed among the heathen, for the world is wide and hath full many customs, but these two alone are needful." And then with that grand manner that they had at that time in Spain, although his strength was failing, he gave to his eldest son his Castilian sword. He lay back then in the huge, carved, canopied bed; his eyes closed, the red silk curtains rustled, and there was no sound of his breathing. But the old lord's spirit, whatever journey it purposed, lingered yet in its ancient habitation, and his voice came again, but feebly now and rambling; he muttered awhile of gardens, such gardens no doubt as the hidalgos guarded in that fertile region of sunshine in the proudest period of Spain; he would have known no others. So for awhile his memory seemed to stray, half blind among those perfumed earthly wonders; perhaps among these memories his spirit halted, and tarried those last few moments, mistaking those Spanish gardens, remembered by moonlight in Spring, for the other end of his journey, the glades of Paradise. However it be, it tarried. These rambling memories ceased and silence fell again, with scarcely the sound of breathing. Then gathering up his strength for the last time and looking at his son, "The sword to the wars," he said. "The mandolin to the balconies." With that he fell back dead.
Now there were no wars at that time so far as was known in Spain, but that old lord's eldest son, regarding those last words of his father as a commandment, determined then and there in that dim, vast chamber to gird his legacy to him and seek for the wars, wherever the wars might be, so soon as the obsequies of the sepulture were ended. And of those obsequies I tell not here, for they are fully told in the Black Books of Spain, and the deeds of that old lord's youth are told in the Golden Stories. The Book of Maidens mentions him, and again we read of him in Gardens of Spain. I take my leave of him, happy, I trust, in Paradise, for he had himself the accomplishments that he held needful in a Christian, skill with the sword and a way with the mandolin; and if there be some harder, better way to salvation than to follow that which we believe to be good, then are we all damned. So he was buried, and his eldest son fared forth with his legacy dangling from his girdle in its long, straight, lovely scabbard, blue velvet, with emeralds on it, fared forth on foot along a road of Spain. And though the road turned left and right and sometimes nearly ceased, as though to let the small wild flowers grow, out of sheer good will such as some roads never have; though it ran west and east and sometimes south, yet in the main it ran northward, though wandered is a better word than ran, and the Lord of the Valleys of Arguento Harez who owned no valleys, or anything but a sword, kept company with it looking for the wars. Upon his back he had slung his mandolin. Now the time of the year was Spring, not Spring as we know it in England, for it was but early March, but it was the time when Spring coming up out of Africa, or unknown lands to the south, first touches Spain, and multitudes of anemones come forth at her feet.
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