Chapter30

CHAPTER XXXI

THE FALL OF PSEUDOPOLIS

0 Jurgen abode in Leuke, and complied with the customs of that country; and what with one thing and another, he and Chloris made the time pass pleasantly enough, until the winter solstice was at hand. Now Pseudopolis, as has been said, was at war with Philistia: so it befell that at this season Leuke was invaded by an army of Philistines, led by their Queen Dolores, a woman who was wise but not entirely reliable. They came from the coast, a terrible army insanely clad in such garments as had been commanded by Ageus, a god of theirs; and chaunting psalms in honour of their god Vel-Tyno, who had inspired this crusade: thus they swept down upon Pseudopolis, and encam ped before the city.

These Philistines fought in this campaign by casting before them a more horrible form of Greek fire, which consumed whatever was not grey-coloured. For that colour alone was now favoured by their god Vel-Tyno. "And all other colours," his ora cles had decreed, "are for evermore abominable, until I say otherwise."

So the forces of Philistia were marshalled in the plain before Pseudopolis, and Queen Dolores spoke to her troops. And smilingly she said:

"Whenever you come to blows with the enemy he will. be beaten. No mercy will be shown, no prisoners taken. As the Philistines under Libnah and Goliath and Gershon, and a many other tall captains, made for themselves a name which is still mighty in traditions and legend, even thus to-day may the name of Realist be so fixed in Pseudopolis, by your deeds to-day, that no one shall ever dare again even to look askance at a Philistine. Open the door for Realism, once for all!"

Meanwhile within the city Achilles, King of Men, addressed his army:

"The eyes of all the world will be upon you, because you are in some especial sense the soldiers of Romance. Let it be your pride, therefore, to show all men everywhere, not only what good soldiers you are, but also what good men you are, keeping yourselves fit and straight in everything, and pure and clean through and through. Let us set ourselves a standard so high that it will be a glory to live up to it, and then let us live up to it, and add a new laurel to the crown of Pseudopolis. May the G ods of Old keep you and guide you!"

Then said Thersites, in his beard: "Certainly Pelides, has learned from history with what weapon a strong man discomfits the Philistines."

But the other kings applauded, and the trumpet was sounded, and the battle was joined. And that day the forces of Philistia were everywhere triumphant. But they report a queer thing happened: and it was that when the Philistines shouted in their triump h, Achilles and all they who served him rose from the ground like gleaming clouds and passed above the heads of the Philistines, deriding them.

Thus was Pseudopolis left empty, so that the Philistines entered there into without any opposition. They defiled this city of blasphemous colours, then burned it as a sacrifice to their god Vel-Tyno, because the colour of ashes is grey.

Then the Philistines erected lithoi (which were not unlike may-poles), and began to celebrate their religious rites. ate their religious rites.

So it was reported: but Jurgen witnessed none of these events.

"Let them fight it out," said Jurgen it is not my affair. I agree with Silenus: dullness will conquer dullness, and it will not matter. But do you, woman dear, take shelter with your kindred in the unconquerable Woods, for there is no telling what damage the Philistines may do hereabouts."

"Will you go with me, Jurgen?"

"My dear, you know very well that it is impossible for me ever again to go into the Woods, after the trick I played upon Phobetor."

"And if only you had kept your head about that bean-pole of a Helen, in her yellow wig-for I have not a doubt that every strand of it is false, and at all events this is not a time to be arguing about it, Jurgen, -why, then you would never have me ddled with Uncle Phobetor! It simply shows you!"

"Yes," said Jurgen.

"Still, I do not know. If you come with me into the Woods, Uncle Phobetor in his impetuous way will quite certainly turn you into a boar-pig, because he has always done that to the people who irritated him-"

"I seem to recognise that reason."

"-But give me time, and I can get around Uncle Phobetor, just as I have always done, and he will turn you back."

"No," says Jurgen, obstinately, "I do not wish to be turned into a boar-pig."

"Now, Jurgen, let us be sensible about this! Of course, it is a little humiliating. But I will take the very best of care of you, and feed you with my own acorns, and it will be a purely temporary arrangement. And to be a pig for a week or two, or even for a month, is infinitely better for a poet than being captured by the Philistines."

"How do I know that?" says Jurgen.

"-For it is not, after all, as if Uncle Phobetor's heart were not in the right place. It is just his way. And besides, you must remember what you did with that gimlet!"

Said Jurgen All this is hardly to the purpose. You forget I have seen the hapless swine of Phobetor, and I know how he ameliorates the natural ferocity of his boar-pigs. No, I am Jurgen. So I remain. I will face the Philistines, and whatever they may p ossibly do to me, rather than suffer that which Phobetor will quite certainly do to me."

"Then I stay too," said Chloris.

"No, woman dear-!"

"But do you not understand?" says Chloris, a little pale, as he saw now. "Since the life of a hamadryad is linked with the life of her tree, nobody can harm me so long as my tree lives: and if they cut down my tree I will die, wherever I may happen to be."

"I had forgotten that." He was really troubled now.

"-And you can see for yourself, Jurgen, it is quite out of the question for me to be carrying that great oak anywhere, and I wonder at your talking such nonsense."

"Indeed, my dear," says Jurgen, "we are very neatly trapped. Well, nobody can live longer in peace than his neighbour chooses. Nevertheless, it is not fair."

As he spoke the Philistines came forth from the burning city. Again the trumpet sounded, and the Philistines advanced in their order of battle.

 

Chapter 32