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THE DREAMER of DREAMS

by

THE QUEEN of ROUMANIA

Illustrated by Edmund Dulac







Hodder & Stoughton
London, New York, Toronto




[Illustration: _Everything about her was white, glistening and
shining._]


Dedicated
TO MY DAUGHTER
ILEANA

"I LOOKED INTO HER EYES AND THEREIN
I SAW HOPES AND DREAMS AND ALL THE
PROMISES LIFE CONTAINS."




ILLUSTRATIONS


PAGE

EVERYTHING ABOUT HER WAS WHITE, GLISTENING AND SHINING 17

ERIC LAY NOW, STRETCHED AT THE FEET OF THE WOMAN HE
COULD NOT LEAVE 39

A CIRCLE OF MIST SEEMED TO BE SETTLING AROUND THEM 72

IT WAS THE MIRACULOUS BUBBLES 100

AND THERE, LEANING AGAINST A MOSS-GROWN CRUMBLING
TREE, WAS A SPIRIT-LIKE BEING OUT OF ANOTHER WORLD! 125

KING WANDA SAT UPON HIS MARBLE TERRACE BASKING IN
THE FIRST WARMTH OF THE SEASON 173




I

And I dream in my waking dreams, and deep in the dreams of sleep.

FIONA MACLEOD.


Consternation reigned in King Wanda's castle, - the great Northern King
before whose will so many trembled, before whose smile so many crouched
in expectation. His favourite painter had suddenly lost his wits and
refused to finish the picture he had begun on the walls of the ancient
hall where all the great banquets were held - a beautiful hall, where a
frieze was being conjured into life by the incomparable art of Eric
Gundian, a quite young man of wonderful talent, who had been discovered
by the King one sunshiny morning.

Each day that Eric Gundian had spent within the King's walls his
reputation had grown, and he had, all unconsciously, become the Court
favourite. His every whim had been an order; and his gay handsome face
had been loved by old and young.

The creeping jealousies around him had died down of themselves before
the sweetness of his smile and the wonder of his art.

The sound of his voice was like spring birds singing of love in
green-clad forests, and when the sun shone on his head it was like the
haze of a summer's evening over a ripe cornfield. In his eyes slumbered
the beautiful peace of mountain lakes, and in his heart there lived the
simple trust of a pure soul ... and now Eric Gundian, Eric of the
golden locks - Eric the fairy-fingered, Eric the sweet-voiced had lost
his wits!

One morning he awoke, and no one could understand the meaning of his
talk; he declared he had had a dream, and in his dream he had seen two
eyes, the eyes he needed for the completing of his picture; and without
those eyes he never again could touch either colour or brush. King Wanda
had called for him to be brought before his presence, but Eric had
sullenly refused to answer his command.

At first King Wanda had been furiously angry, but then he remembered
Eric's wonderful art, and had deigned to go out to where his favourite
sat on the cool marble steps, that led down to the lake, before the
King's white palace of beauty.

Eric had risen before the crowned figure that bent towards him a stern
face of inquiry, but to all the King's questions, to all his
persuasions, flatteries, threats, and entreaties Eric had replied with a
sad gesture of resignation, that never again could he take up his brush
till he had found those eyes which had haunted his dream. His pain and
his despair were so evident, that King Wanda felt that no words had
force to move the distracted young man. Sadly he departed, and mounted
one by one the shallow marble steps which reflected in glowing colours
the costly clothes that he wore. Once more he turned and looked down
upon his favourite, who sat, his head in his hands, gazing across the
sparkling lake; he heaved a deep sigh and felt like quarrelling with
Fate who had despoiled him of one of his great joys.

As he reached the palace door, he was met by the sweet little figure of
his daughter, who came out into the sunshine, gathering up her long
trailing dress, a golden ball clasped in her hands. The King smiled upon
her, and bade her go down to the water's edge to try and console the
young painter with her radiant youth. With a gay laugh Oona rolled her
golden ball down the snow-white steps, and it fell with a splash into
the water at the young man's feet, making great circles that spread,
always widening, over the blue expanse; but Eric never moved, he kept
staring into the distance as if he were following a vision no other eye
could see. Oona came noiselessly down the steps, rather awed by the
silence and stillness of the young man who had always been her gayest
playfellow.

Gently she drew near to where he sat, and dropped down at his side - then
like a playful kitten she nestled quite close to him and peered up into
his face. The smile faded from her soft lips and gave way to a look of
wonder and distress. She put both arms round her young friend's neck,
and pressing her blossom-like cheek against his shoulder, she asked him
gently if he would not come and play with her beneath the flowering
apple-trees.

Eric looked at her as if she were a stranger; his eyes seemed to wander
over her fair face without any recognition. Suddenly little Oona was
afraid, and drew back; what had come to her friend? Why was he so
changed? Why did she begin to shiver in the warm sunshine so that all
around her lost light and colour?

Once more she drew near, her warm little heart longing to help, longing
to bring the smile back to the eyes of her companion. She wore a
dark-red rose in her belt, and drawing it out she pulled the red petals
off, one by one, letting them drop over his bent head down upon the
white marble at his feet. But Eric never looked up; the velvety petals
lay, a fading little heap, unnoticed upon the marble step, till a small
gust of wind swept them into the water which carried them away far out
of sight.

Poor little Oona rose to her feet; a great fear had come over her; and
gathering up her long white skirts she fled back into the palace as if
she were being pursued.

Still Eric sat, gazing into space, till night came down and blotted out
all things from his sight.




II

I run across hills and dales, I wander through nameless lands ...
because I am hunting for a golden dream.

TAGORE.


The road was long and dusty, and stretched out before the wanderer's
feet. He carried a small wallet on his back, and in his hand was a
strong stick. The little birds on the trees sang glad songs because it
was spring-time, and the branches were weighed down by the wealth of
their blossoms. The wanderer was young, and his face was good to look
upon; his clothes were new, and round his neck he wore a golden chain
which was the royal gift of a King. His step was light and eager, and
there was a look of hope in his eyes; he had a flute in his pocket upon
which he played from time to time a sweet little tune - a little tune the
end notes of which always sounded like an unanswered question.

None had been able to keep him back; Eric of the golden locks, ... Eric
the fairy-fingered, ... Eric the sweet-voiced, ... Eric the mad painter,
had left the white castle of beauty, to wander the wide world over
seeking for two eyes that had come to him in a dream.

In the great hall King Wanda stood, looking on the unfinished frieze; it
was a marvellous painting in glowing colours that ran all round the
room. A master hand alone could have been capable of such perfect
composition, such rich colouring, such charm and poetry. The great
procession represented the triumph of Love.

It was like a wondrous wedding-feast, and all the figures were moving,
an army of joyous youths and maidens, towards a golden throne. On the
throne sat a woman whose golden robe flowed, like a river seen at
sunset, down towards the youths and maidens who were singing songs of
praise, whilst they swung bloom-laden branches over their heads and cast
white roses before the throne of Love. Behind this vision of youth came
stern-faced warriors on snorting chargers, and pearl-crowned queens who
led golden-haired children by the hand. Then came musicians who were
followed by troops of beggars and the tattered forms of the poor, all
hurrying, pressing, streaming towards that golden throne.... But the
woman on the throne had no face.

The fairy fingers of the artist had stopped here, suddenly; before the
final accomplishment, which was to have crowned his whole masterpiece,
Eric's brush had failed him. In his dreams he had seen the face he
wanted, the eyes that haunted him; but the moment he woke his vision
paled, and no effort of will could call back the look of those eyes
which he needed for the woman on the throne.

So Eric - the Eric whom every one loved, who had been the stern King's
joy - had gone mad because of the desire for those eyes of his dream.

The light began to fail in the great hall; still King Wanda stood gazing
at the figure on the throne which had no face. Great rage seized him
because of his helplessness, and a great longing for the fair-haired
youth who had been his joy and pride. Little Oona came up to where he
stood, and slipped her cool hand into his, laying her curly head against
his arm. He turned to her with a deep sigh, and together they passed out
into the flowering garden.

The wanderer sped along the endless road always farther and farther from
the palace of the King. His shoes were covered with dust, and when his
steps began to lag he would take from his pocket the flute upon which he
played that sad little tune with the questioning notes at the end.

It was mid-day - Eric had already walked many miles, and now the sun beat
down with great force on his head. He wondered where he was, but only
vaguely, because since his dream he seemed to have another head on his
shoulders, and none of the tidy thoughts of other days would come to
him. He had no notion where he was going; he only knew that he could not
rest until he found that face he needed for his picture, and above all
those great eyes that haunted his dreams.

He sat very still at the edge of the road where he had thrown himself.
He closed his eyes, and the moment he did so those he was seeking were
before him, great and luminous, with an expression he had never seen in
any other look. How clear they were, and how steadfastly they rested
upon him with never a droop of the eyelids. It did not strike him that
he might be on a fool's errand, he had no doubts and no fears; the great
genius had become like to a little child, confident and with no thoughts
of failure. He had no plan, he simply meant to travel all the world over
till he found what he was seeking; God would care for him as He did for
the birds of the air, and time did not count. He wiped his damp brow,
and then looked about him; all was very still, the air was laden with
the sweet perfumes of summer flowers; the sky was blue, and not a leaf
stirred on the trees. Eric smiled to himself, and played on his flute;
he liked to listen to his own little tunes; they were very sweet to him,
and he quite forgot everything whilst he piped away like a bird. He
began many different melodies, but they always ended on the same
questioning notes. He never remarked that each of his little tunes had
the same ending; to him they were infinitely varied. And intensely sweet
they were, with a haunting sound like human sighs mixed with the
laughter of little children. And now the clearest bird notes rang out,
and then again the sob of a nightingale or the trickling sound of
running water, clear and crystalline, as if a little source were
bubbling forth close by. He was completely absorbed by the music, and
more than one passer-by had stopped a moment to listen; but Eric had
only nodded and smiled as if each one had been a personal acquaintance.

Then he rose and wandered onwards, always keeping straight along the
road that stretched before him, never inquiring his way, serenely
confident that all would go well with him if he only held his one great
aim in view.

Before the King's palace Oona, flitting hither and thither, like a gay
butterfly, played with her golden balls in the sunshine, occasionally
tripping over her too royal apparel, her clear laugh sounding through
the summer-laden air.

But within the still, white palace sat King Wanda, and all the time his
eyes beheld a small cloud of dust, raised by the feet of a golden-haired
youth, who had been the joy of his days, leaving him and all his kingly
splendour to follow a vision which the grey-haired man could never
understand, - and it seemed to him that the little cloud of dust became
always smaller and smaller till he could see it no more.




III

From my heart comes out and dances before me the image of my desire.

TAGORE.


The town was tiny and the streets so narrow that conversation could be
held by neighbours across the road beneath the gables. The high pointed
roofs had all the shades of red and brick, and before nearly each small
window bunches of scarlet geraniums bloomed in profusion, - a sleepy
little place, where the grey cats lazily slept in the middle of the
pavement quite undisturbed by any passer-by, quite safe from being run
over. They blinked their eyes in the bright sunshine, and stretched
their supple limbs to the kindly warmth.

Over the sea of red roofs the different-shaped chimneys sent up their
bluish smoke that hung like a transparent cloud waving slowly backwards
and forwards in the still air. Now steps came along one of the quiet
streets, and the silence was such that they were heard long before the
walker came into sight. He was a quite young man, tired but light of
step, and his uncovered head shone like gold in the sunshine. Round his
neck he wore a heavy golden chain, and his clothes were new; within his
eyes there was a searching look, but a smile was on his face, and the
world seemed to him just one long road upon which he could follow his
dream. He chose the shady side of the street because the day was warm
and the sun had poured down for many hours upon his way.

All the time he glanced right and left as if expecting to find what he
was looking for; but he was in no hurry, and often a glad little song
broke from his lips, whilst the sound of his strong stick on the cobble
stones had a cheery note that echoed along the houses. Eric felt like a
bird of the air, that could fly whither it would, and for which each
tree was a resting-place.

He cared little for how long he had wandered, nor for what he had left
behind, nor where he was going; all he needed was a long road that would
lead him on and on until he reached his goal. And his goal might be
reached any day, any hour, any minute. Hope was always within his heart;
but it mattered not if its fulfilment were to-day or to-morrow.

His smile was so sweet and his face so fair that all were ready to open
their doors to him; so he feared neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat
nor cold, neither night nor storm.

Now he was feeling rather weary, so he sat down on a doorstep, drew his
flute from his pocket, and began to play soft little runs up and down;
his fingers, as if they were dancing, moving lightly over the small
holes.

The flies buzzed around him trying to tease him, but he was indifferent
to all except the sweet notes of his flute. So absorbed was he that he
did not hear the door open behind him, and only looked up when a hand
was laid upon his shoulder.

'Twas the trembling hand of a quite old woman, very bent, her face lined
with many wrinkles, her eyes dim and tired. Eric sprang to his feet and
craved pardon for being in her way.

She looked hard at him, at first with annoyance; but his wonderful smile
disarmed her, so she hobbled away shaking her head, turning round more
than once to look again at the youthful stranger. She had left the door
into the crooked little house wide open.

Eric sat down once more upon the steps and continued his music. It was
wonderful the peace it gave him; he needed nothing else - did not even
try to think, leaving Fate to shape events around him.

From the upper window trails of scarlet geraniums hung down over his
head; a faint breeze fanned them, making some loose petals fall upon his
knees.

With a smile he gathered them in his hand, enjoying the beauty of their
colour, letting them drop through his fingers, playing with them like a
child.

And now from inside the house he caught sounds of a sweet voice singing
softly some old, old song. The notes rose and rose until they entirely
filled the small house behind him.

He looked up to the window, but could see only the red flowers against
the rusty old wall.

He rose and stood in the doorway, and listened to the voice that sounded
like a bird singing in a wood, singing, singing to its mate a song of
Love.

It did not make his heart beat as it would have done the hearts of other
youths, but it dawned upon him that the voice was human, and that it
could only belong to a girl or a woman.

Thoughts came but slowly to him as through a mist, because we know that
since that fatal morning Eric Gundian had lost his wits.

But Eric Gundian was still, to all outward appearance, the same
beautiful young man, with the same face, the same golden hair, the same
luminous smile that bespoke the simple trust of a pure soul.... Now,
moved by some irresistible impulse, Eric walked into the house, and, led
by the glorious voice, climbed the narrow dark stairs, up, up, as if he
were mounting into the skies. Then before the open door of a small
sunlit room, he suddenly paused, seized with wonder....

Sitting near the window, her fair head bent over her work, was a lovely
maiden: she drew stitch after stitch through the snow-white linen, and
the hand which held the shining thread moved backwards and forwards like
a dove hovering over a gateway.

As she worked the song burst from her lips; she sang and sang, with the
glorious gladness of youth which has not yet known either sorrow or
disappointment. There was nothing sad in her tune, it was all hope and
joy and sweetness. Behind her head the geraniums made a fiery haze where
the sun smote upon them with the blinding rays of summer. Then it was
that Gundian felt all his soul awake with the longing that she would
look up, so that he might see her eyes....

Perhaps they would be the eyes he was searching for. To-day, to-morrow,
this hour, or the next he was sure to meet them.

The maiden, all unconscious of his presence, sang on and on, from one
song to another, the sweetness of her voice ringing through the
stillness like glad Easter bells.

The wanderer held his breath; and, both hands pressed against his
breast, waited in a sort of agony for her to raise her head.

At last she did so, but it was towards the window she looked.

She even left her chair and reached far out over the red geraniums to
glance into the street below.

As she sat down her eyes turned to the door where the stranger stood
watching. With a little cry of fear she crumpled the white linen against
her and stared at him without finding a word.

Impulsively Eric sprang forward, and taking her with a quick movement by
both shoulders, he whirled her round to the light, peering with a hungry
longing into her eyes.... All was done in a flash; the astonished girl
was so taken by surprise that she had no time to defend herself against
so sudden an onslaught.

But hardly had he seen her eyes than he let her go again, and putting
his two hands over his face, with a cry of disappointment, he turned and
fled.

Down the dark narrow stairs he sped, out into the bright sunlight; there
he paused a moment to pick up his stick and flute, then ran as if
possessed; and before long he had left the sleepy red-roofed little town
far behind.... Still he ran, ran, eager to get away from the eyes which
were not the eyes he wanted.




IV

I have come far, led by my dreams and visions.

TAGORE.


The moon was shining down upon an endless expanse of snow - as far as the
eye could reach, snow, snow, white and dazzling, strewn with a million
glittering diamonds.

It had ceased snowing; the storm was over; but the wind still blew in
biting blasts, forcing the wanderer to draw his cloak more closely
around him, and to bend his head, as he slowly advanced over that
everlasting desert of white.

He walked and walked; there was no end to this frozen snow-field over
which his feet had made a narrow little path that alone disturbed the
shroud-like surface. And always longer and longer it grew, zigzagging
beneath the quiet face of the moon.

From time to time the wind blew snowflakes against him, and they beat in
his face like a thousand pins, obliging him to shut his eyes not to be
blinded.

Each flake had another shape; there were stars and crosses, moss-like
flowers and strangely shaped butterflies, all dancing in mad circles
around the lonely wayfarer.

Some kept their beautiful shape even when fallen to the ground, and the
moon would light them up like precious jewels out of a queenly casket.

The young man was the only living thing in this wilderness of ice and
snow.

He could not have told how he had got there; what will was driving him
always onwards upon his mad search; but nothing had power to stop him,
nor had fear any place in his soul.

Now, even the wind died down and a hush fell over all things.

The light of the moon became intenser in the growing stillness.

Looking up, Eric saw myriads of stars twinkling down upon him from
unknown heights, like friendly eyes encouraging him on his way. For a
moment he stood still; the silence was now as overpowering as the storm
had been; everything around him was bathed in a cold hard light, the
whiteness of which ceaselessly burnt into his brain. Suddenly a little
bluey flame came dancing out of the distance, then another, and another,
always more numerous, till the whole expanse was covered with them; a
wavering army of little lights, like thousands of lost souls coming
together for a last parade in this land of the forgotten. Eric tried to
seize one with his frozen fingers, but no sooner had he thought to grasp
it than it slid away like a shape in a dream.

Then with childlike eagerness he began a mad chase after the elusive
little flames, running to and fro in the moonlight in an effort to catch
them, yet never succeeding; there were always more and more lights
tempting him onwards over that desert of snow.

At last he laughed aloud, standing still to watch the little blue flames
float away into the unknown out of which they had come, one after
another like a long procession of pilgrims in the night....

They became always smaller and smaller, seeming to beckon to him as they
disappeared, inviting him to follow once more in a mad chase over the
hard frozen snow.

A glow had spread over Eric's cheeks, his eyes sparkled, and the moon
reflected herself within them. He uncovered his head, throwing back his
golden locks with a boyish gesture, whilst he stood still to watch the
wonder of this northern night so clear and dazzling.

As he waited with arms outstretched trying to grasp all the beauty to
his heart, the artist in him keenly alive to his surroundings, he
discerned a shadow approaching, followed by a second and then a third.
And as they came nearer he realized that they were great white bears
hardly to be distinguished from their background.

Our wanderer felt no thrill of fear, the great beasts were so completely
in keeping with their surroundings; their white skins harmonized
perfectly with the immaculate snow. They came slowly towards him, quiet
and majestic, slightly swinging their heavy bodies as they glided


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