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"In her own strength lies her pride. She is not a woman. beauty, loneliness, cruelty and the ultimate passion of all life."
HE prisoners who were to die by the queen's command at the rising of the sun (her brother) lay face downward in the sand, some of them drunken, and others sober despite the wine that the guards had permitted them on their last night on earth, and told the strange histories of their wayward souls-the histories that were to end at dawn.
There were twelve of them. They had come from all parts of the queen's kingdom to this moon-lit prison-yard, set about by insurmountable walls so thickly built that soldiers paced their heights three abreast. The prisoners, if they cared to look, could see them up there, their arms and armor glinting in the moonlight as they moved back and forth, so far above that they seemed to promenade among the stars. One date
tree in the distance beyond spread its palms against the moon-washed sky. The youngest prisoner, the silent and imperturbable boy who often smiled at his own thoughts, had a special name for the date-tree; "the queen's fan," he called it. The soldiers on the wall laughed and talked, but the prisoners could not hear them, and the soldiers could not hear the prisoners, who also talked and sometimes laughed.
Only the beasts slept, the great beasts from the jungle who paced by day the broad area that circled the deep-walled yard, and kept a watch that the most desperate man, even though condemned to die by torture, would hesitate to chance even in a drunken dream of freedom. And beyond the vast ring of the beasts there was still another
She is force-force,
circle, broad, and defined by sharp walls set within the higher outer wall. Here, where there were only sand and rocks, and about a spring a few low trees and some rank grass, lived the reptiles, long, evil snakes, forever athirst for the blood of man or horse or bird, or low-lying, prowling, seeking, hateful, forever waiting to whip his life from some intruder.
An ascetic young man, always pale and wet with a continual sweat, wiped the cold moisture from his eyelids, dried his hand in the sand, and then turned on his back to look up at the stars. was from another land, a land to the north; he had come preaching a strange religion. The sun, he had preached, was not God. The sun could not be God; the sun was only the sun. God was a mighty being who kept himself in a silver heaven, and with a million eyes looked down upon this world; God, he preached, had a million hands with which to scourge the wicked and the unbelievers and from which to pour benefits upon the righteous and the meek. The queen herself did not hesitate to listen to the strange prophets and priests that now and then came down the great yellow road that ran through her kingdom. They amused her; sometimes they excited her: but she felt that it was very bad for the morale of her subjects to have the validity of her religion debated. Her brother, the sun, whom all men and women and even the littlest children, worshiped as the giver of all good things, was not to be spoken of skeptically by strange young men from the north. So this white and feverish one was taken and flogged and
of the sun. Even I am there, having forgotten what I thought I could never forget that twilight tryst at the city gate. The mob clamors and calls, and presently she comes, the queen, and stands in the blue archway above the central portico. I see her and know her for my passenger-'
He stopped sharply, as if he could not breathe. The man who had been a pirate lifted his head from his arm and sat up in the sand.
"I was there in that mob," he asserted. "I saw her."
There was a moment's silence; then the youngest prisoner continued:
"You must know, all of you, of course, what she said to her people that night. She promised to take the prince for a husband if they would consent to choosing a second subject from among her own subjects. This, as you know, they promised, and the runners went north to summon the prince. I returned to my house by the river and lay all night on my roof, staring at the stars.
"The next day at sunset she came to the gateway by the river. She was very quiet, and so was I, and my boat went forward silently except for the beating of the oars and the wash of the water as we passed through it. I did not sing. 'You are the queen,' I said to her after the sun had set and the red lanterns of her city had been hung out by the watchman, 'and I love you.'
"For a moment she stood idle by the wall.
""Take me back now,' she said. "But I did not take her back that night; not until the red lanterns again gleamed from the city walls.
"All kisses are sweet, and it is good to feel them warming one's life for an instant; but the kisses I took from her that night were death-kisses. They gave my soul to its fate. They were arrows in my spirit. I was hers, and she knew it, then and forever.
'You will have no husband but me,' I told her. 'I will go to the prince and kill him.'
" "You would have to be very skilful to find the prince and kill him,' she said. 'May I go?' I asked. 'May I go and find him?'
"'Yes,' she said, 'and be skilful.'"'
I went. You know that the prince died of a strange sickness before he reached our city to claim his bride. I was very skilful. And now that is what you will not understand, what I do not understand my own self. I came back to my queen, and I said to myself that I had no desire to live in the palace as her husband. I had no desire for her riches. But I swore that she should be-long only to me, always. I did not go to her. I knew that she came every night, as she promised, to the city gate, and there I waited for her all day-waited without food; waited, trembling from feet to my lips, as if from cold or weakness. At last I saw her. She came down the steps slowly. Two men were following her. She did not speak to me. I saw that her eyes were full of tears. I started toward her, but she lifted her hand suddenly and pointed at me. Then she went away, and the men came and tied my hands and brought me here, and I knew that she wanted me to die. I am not sorry that it is to be so. I know, I think, why she wishes it, despite the kisses that I had from her that night. There is a sort of madness in her brain, a madness keen to the point of unreason. And that she has found life possible despite her melancholy has been her triumph. She will not weaken now. She will go her way alone. She is a spirit leaping toward her brother, the sun. Vast as the light of the sun is her aspiration toward strength. In her own strength lies her pride. She is not a woman. She is force-force, beauty, loneliness, cruelty, and the ultimate passion of all life. To be oneself is the ultimate passion, I think, of living. She will be herself, none other. No one may touch her to weaken her, to change her. to destroy her. She will not permit it. and love, she knows well, overthrows the strongest.
"And so, my friends, to-morrow at dawn I die."
He paused. The smile that was forever near his lips had gone.
The other prisoners took up his story and told one another many strange things that they had known of women and of the abyss that lies between a woman's soul and her body.
The man who did not believe that the
sun was God, but that a great being dwelling in a silver heaven ruled the land and sea from afar, told of certain women in his own land who in early maidenhood bound veils over their faces and went into a certain grove which men were never permitted to enter; if one of the women dwelling there was violated, great ill fortune always came upon the country, so that all people pledged themselves together to guard the forest, which had become sacred to them. The man who had been a pirate brought forth another tale of girls on a certain island who of their own volition took vows of chastity that they might be fit sacrifices when their people, oppressed by war or famine or fevers, sought to propitiate their gods by the blood of their maidens. And still other men had other tales to tell, one of a wife who wept incessantly at his caresses until he turned to other women, when in her jealous despair she leaped into the sea; one of the courtesan who stripped the jewels and fine clothes from her body, and, wrapping herself in filthy rags, went into the desert to be alone.
"They are all little sisters of the sun," said the youngest prisoner after a pause. "There is something in all of them, even the most abandoned, that is beyond us, with our explicit demands and our insistent need. Yet she whom
I loved was the great sister of the sun, the daughter of the hills, the beloved of the winds. Her body was a field for the seed of love, her soul a sky to sow with the stars of one's dreams; but she wishes me to die, and so I am glad to die."
"I would die for no woman," said the pirate. "My game is ending in death; but it was a great game, full of danger and joy, and I would go back and play it again in the same way even if it were to bring me to the same end to-night."
There was a silvery film in the air. They saw it, and knew that the dawn was not far away. They found the wine-jug and passed it from one to the other. Twice all around they drank, all but the youngest prisoner. He lay back in the sand and stared at the stars, at the date-palm moving a little among them in the first light wind that blew in with the dawn.
The ache of life was passing. Again he lay face to face with the sister of the sun and touched the phantom roseleaves of her lips. Sudden tears rushed over his eyes. But they were not for himself; he was thinking only of her as four guards, moving like the sound of metal clinking, came toward him, their mail flashing back the dawn's first flame.
"Poor soul," he whispered, "poor lonely soul! My beautiful, my wonder!"
"It is the women who have won the war as much as men' "
EACE has come. The carnage ceases. The guns no longer roar. A leaf of history is now to be turneda leaf charged with record of the great suffering of the entire world. Upon its pages are found engraved the passions, the emotions, of mankind. Here stand revealed the loves, the hopes, the hates, the fears that war, and war alone, engenders. Here, too, stand records of ideals, the goals toward which men struggle, the list of peoples who, suffering all that civilization might not perish, threw themselves into the Titan task. Upon that list of nations many a name will glow undying, but glittering in splendor among the brightest of them all will stand forever the name of France-France who, as her allies waited, girding their strength, stood a bulwark against the foe; France who against the gray and mighty tides of onward-sweeping armies hurled her cherished sons; France who at the Battle of the Marne preserved all that man holds dear. Holy forever upon the lips of men will be held the name of France. The memory of the deeds of her fair sons will endure through the ages.
And what of France's women? Will not the memory of her daughters live undying with her sons? Was it not they who, sending their beloved to the battle-line, turned without a word, with bursting hearts, to do the work of men? They gave their husbands, brothers, children, lovers, but that was not
enough. Yet more their country needed. That wall of men that on the frontier stood unflinchingly against the foe had to be maintained. The armies were but flesh and blood; they cried aloud for weapons, food, and clothing. The labor in the fields, the guarding of the flocks, the work in factories, in mills, in mines, on railroads, ships, and wharves, could not for an instant cease. Else would the armies perish, the nation's sacrifices be for naught, and over France, nay, over all the world, would sweep the devastating hordes. The women heard their country's cry. Laying down their buckets and brooms, they bared their arms and poured into the fields and mills. Their weapons might not be the guns, but in their hands they grasped the ax, the hoe, the scythe, the net, the handles of machinery. These would overcome the enemy as much as any
O women of France, was not yours the greatest anguish of all? Your sons upon the war-racked front had their moments of enthrallment. Though the guns raged, and mutilated bodies fell, yet the mad frenzy of the conflict carried them on. But yours, 0 wives and mothers, was the waiting and suspense. Your thoughts, distracted not by scream of shells, dwelt ever on the horror that had descended on the world. Your days dragged by-days upon days without a word from loved ones at the front. What can be happening now? you questioned endlessly, your minds upon the battle. Joyless and drear, those hours