Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXV

CANTRAPS OF THE MASTER PHILOLOGIST

UT now, as has been recorded, it was September, and Jurgen could see that Anaitis too was worrying over something. She kept it from him as long as possible :first said it was nothing at all, then said he would know it soon enough, then wept the possibility that he would probably be very glad to hear it, and eventually told him. For in becoming the consort of a nature myth connected with the Moon Jurgen had of course expose d himself to the danger of being converted into a solar legend by the Philologists, and in that event would be compelled to leave Cocaigne with the Equinox, to enter into autumnal exploits elsewhere. And Anaitis was quite heart-broken over the prospect of losing Jurgen.

"For I have never had such a Prince Consort in Cocaigne, so maddening, and so helpless, and so clever; and the girls, are so fond of you, although they have not been able to get on at all with so many of their step fathers! And I know that you are flippant and heartless, but you have quite spoiled me for other men. No, Jurgen, there is no need to argue, for I have experimented with at least a dozen lovers lately, when I was travelling, and they bored me insufferably. They had, as you put it, dear, no conversation: and you are the only young man I have found in all these ages who could talk interestingly."

"There is a reason for that, since like you, Anaitis, I am not so youthful as I appear."

"I do not care a straw about appearances," wept Anaitis, "but I know that I love you, and that you must be leaving me with the Equinox unless you can settle matters with the Master Philologist."

"Well, my pet," says Jurgen, "the Jews got into Jericho by trying."

He armed, and girded himself with Caliburn, drank a couple of bottles of wine, put on the shirt of Nessus over all, and then went to seek this thaumaturgist.

Anaitis showed him the way to an unpretentious residence, where a week's washing was drying and flapping in the side yard. Jurgen knocked boldly, and after an interval the door was opened by the Master Philologist himself.

"You must pardon this informality," he said, blinking through his great spectacles, which had dust on them: "but time was by ill luck arrested hereabouts on a Thursday evening, and so the maid is out indefinitely. I would suggest, theref ore, that the lady wait outside upon the porch. For the neighbours to see her go in would not be respectable."

"Do you know what I have come for?" says Jurgen, blustering, and splendid in his glittering shirt and his gleaming armour. "For I warn you I am justice."

"I think you are lying, and I am sure you are making an unnecessary noise. In any event, justice is a word, and I control all words."

"You will discover very soon, sir, that actions speak louder than words."

"I believe that is so," said the Master Philologist, still blinking, "just as the Jewish mob spoke louder than He Whom they crucified. But the Word endures."

"You are a quibbler!"

"You are my guest. So I advise you, in pure friendliness, not to impugn the power of my words."

Said Jurgen, scornfully: "But is justice, then, a word?"

"Oh, yes, it is one of the most useful. It is the Spanish justicia, the Portuguese justifa, the Italian giustizia, all from the Latin justus. Oh, yes, indeed, but justice is one of my best connected words, and one of the best trained also, I can assure you."

"Aha, and to what degraded uses do you put this poor enslaved intimidated justice?"

"There is but one intelligent use," said the Master Philologist, unruffled, "for anybody to make of words. I will explain it to you, if you will come in out of this treacherous draught. One never knows what a cold may lead to."

Then the door closed upon them, and Anaitis waited outside, in some trepidation.

Presently Jurgen came out of that unpretentious residence, and so back to Anaitis, discomfited. Jurgen flung down his magic sword, charmed Caliburn.

"This, Anaitis, I perceive to be an outmoded weapon. There is no weapon like words, no armour against words, and with words the Master Philologist has conquered me. It is not at all equitable : but the man showed me a huge book wherein were the na mes of everything in the world, and justice was not among them. It develops that, instead, justice is merely a common noun, vaguely denoting an ethical idea of conduct proper to the circumstances, whether of individuals or communities. It is, you observe, just a grammarian's notion."

"But what has he decided about you, Jurgen?"

"Alas, dear Anaitis, he has decided, in spite of all that I could do, to derive Jurgen from jargon, indicating a confused chattering such as birds give forth at sunrise: thus ruthlessly does the Master Philologist convert me into a solar le gend. So the affair is settled, and we must part,. my darling."

Anaitis took up the sword. "But this is valuable, since the man who wields it is the mightiest of warriors."

"It is a rush, a rotten twig, a broomstraw, against the insidious weapons of the Master Philologist. But keep it if you like, my dear, and give it to your next Prince Consort. I am ashamed to have trifled with such toys," says Jurgen, in fret ted disgust. "And besides, the Master Philologist assures me I shall mount far higher through the aid of this."

"But what is on that bit of parchment?"

"Thirty-two of the Master Philologist's own words that I begged of him. See, my dear, he made this cantrap for me with his own hand and ink." And Jurgen read from the parchment, impressively: "'At the death of Adrian the Fifth, Pedro Jul iani, who should be named John the Twentieth, was through an error in the reckoning elevated to the papal chair as John the Twenty-first.'"

Said Anaitis, blankly: "And is that all?"

"Why, yes: and surely thirty-two whole words should be enough for the most exacting."

"But is it magic? are you certain it is authentic magic?"

"I have learned that there is always magic in words."

"Now, if you ask my opinion, Jurgen, your cantrap is nonsense, and can never be of any earthly use to anybody. Without boasting, dear, I have handled a great deal of black magic in my day, but I never encountered a spell at all like this."

"None the less, my darling, it is evidently a cantrap, for else the Master Philologist would never have given it to me."

"But how are you to use it, pray?"

"Why, as need directs," said Jurgen, and he put the parchment into the pocket of his glittering shirt. "Yes, I repeat, there is always something to be -done with words, and here are thirty-two authentic words from the Master Philologist himself, not to speak of three commas and a full-stop. Oh, I shall certainly go far with this."

"We women have firmer faith in the sword," replied Anaitis. "At all events, you and I cannot remain upon this thaumaturgist's porch indefinitely."

So Anaitis put up Caliburn, and carried it from the thaumaturgist's unpretentious residence to her fine palace in the old twilit wood: and afterward, as everybody knows, she gave this sword to King Arthur, who with its aid rose to be hailed as one of t he Nine Worthies of the World. So did the husband of Guenevere win for himself eternal fame with that which Jurgen flung away.

Chapter 26