Chapter 20

CHAPTER XXI

HOW ANAITIS VOYAGED

OW the tale tells that Jurgen and this Lady of the Lake came presently to the wharves of Cameliard, and went aboard the ship which had brought Anaitis and Merlin into Glathion. This ship was now to every appearance deserted: yet all its saffron-coloured sails were spread, as though in readiness for the ship's departure.

"The crew are scrambling, it may be, for the largesse, and fighting over Gogyrvan's silver pieces," says Anaitis, "but I think they will not be long in returning. So we will sit here upon the prow, and await their leisure."

"But already the vessel moves," says Jurgen, "and I hear behind us the rattling of silver chains and the flapping of shifted saffron-coloured sails."

"They are roguish fellows," says Anaitis, smiling. "Evidently, they hid from us, pretending there was nobody aboard. Now they think to give us a surprise when the ship sets out to sea as though it were of itself. But we will disappoint t hese merry rascals, by seeming to notice nothing unusual."

So Jurgen sat with Anaitis in the two tall chairs that were in the prow of the vessel, under a canopy of crimson stuff embroidered with gold dragons, and just back of the ship's figurehead, which was a dragon painted with thirty colours: and the ship m oved out of the harbour, and so into the open sea. Thus they passed Enisgarth.

"And it is a queer crew that serve you, Anaitis, who are Queen of Cocaigne: for I can hear them talking, far back of us, and their language is all a cheeping and a twittering, as though the mice and the bats were holding conference."

"Why, you must understand that these are outlanders who speak a dialect of their own, and are not like any other people you have ever seen."

"Indeed, now, that is very probable, for I have seen none of your crew. Sometimes it is as though small flickerings passed over the deck, and that is all."

"It is but the heat waves rising from the deck, for the day is warmer than you would think, sitting here under this canopy. And besides, what call have you and I to be bothering over the pranks of common mariners, so long as they do their proper d uty?"

"I was thinking, O woman with unusual eyes, that these are hardly common mariners."

"And I was thinking, Duke Jurgen, that I would tell you a tale of the Old Gods, to make the time speed more pleasantly as we sit here untroubled as a god and a goddess."

Now they had passed Camwy: and Anaitis began to narrate the history of Anistar and Calmoora and of the unusual concessions they granted each other, and of how Calmoora contented her five lovers: and Jurgen found the tale perturbing.

While Anaitis talked the sky grew dark, as though the sun were ashamed and veiled his shame with clouds: and they went forward in a grey twilight which deepened steadily over a tranquil sea. So they passed the lights of Sargyll, most remote of the Red Islands, while Anaitis talked of Procris and King Minos and Pasiphad. As colour went out of the air new colours entered into the sea, which now assumed the varied gleams of water that has long been stagnant. And a silence brooded over the sea, so that the re was no noise anywhere except the sound of the voice of Anaitis, saying, "All men that live have but a little while to live, and none knows his fate thereafter. So that a man possesses nothing certainly save a brief loan of his own body; and yet th e body of man is capable of much curious pleasure."

They came thus to a low-lying naked beach, where there was no sign of habitation. Anaitis said this was the land they were seeking, and they went ashore.

"Even now," says Jurgen, "I have seen none of the crew who brought us hither."

And the beautiful dark woman shrugged, and marvelled why he need perpetually be bothering over the doings of common sailors.

They went forward across the beach, through sand hills, to a moor, seeing no one, and walking in a grey fog. They passed many grey fat sluggish worms and some curious grey reptiles such as Jurgen had never imagined to exist, but Anaitis said these need not trouble them.

"So there is no call to be fingering your charmed sword as we walk here, Duke Jurgen, for these great worms do not ever harm the living."

"For whom, then, do they lie here in wait, in this grey fog, wherethrough the green lights flutter, and wherethrough I hear at times a thin and far-off wailing?"

"What is that to you, Duke Jurgen, since you and I are still in the warm flesh? Surely there was never a man who asked more idle questions."

"Yet this is an uncomfortable twilight."

"To the contrary, you should rejoice that it is a fog too heavy to be penetrated by the Moon."

"But what have I to do with the Moon?"

"Nothing, as yet. And that is as well for you, Duke Jurgen, since it is authentically reported you have derided the day which is sacred to the Moon. Now the Moon does not love derision, as I well know, for in part I serve the Moon."

"Eh?" says Jurgen: and he began to reflect.

So they came to a wall that was high and grey, and to the door which was in the wall.

"You must knock two or three times, says Anaitis, "to get into Cocaigne."

Jurgen observed the bronze knocker upon the door, and he grinned in order to hide his embarrassment.

"It is a quaint fancy," said he, "and the two constituents of it appear to have been modelled from life."

"They were copied very exactly from Adam and Eve," says Analtis, "who were the first persons to open this gateway."

"Why, then," says Jurgen, "there is no earthly doubt that men degenerate, since here under my hand is the proof of it."

With that he knocked, and the door opened, and the two of them entered.

Chapter 22