A House Of Pomegranates (3 of 3)


Uploaded by The16thCavern on 15.11.2012

Transcript:
A House Of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde
The Star-Child
Once upon a time two poor Woodcutters were making their way home
through a great pine-forest. It was winter, and a night of bitter
cold. The snow lay thick upon the ground, and upon the branches of
the trees: the frost kept snapping the little twigs on either side
of them, as they passed: and when they came to the Mountain-
Torrent she was hanging motionless in air, for the Ice-King had
kissed her.
So cold was it that even the animals and the birds did not know
what to make of it.
'Ugh!' snarled the Wolf, as he limped through the brushwood with
his tail between his legs, 'this is perfectly monstrous weather.
Why doesn't the Government look to it?'
'Weet! weet! weet!' twittered the green Linnets, 'the old Earth is
dead and they have laid her out in her white shroud.'
'The Earth is going to be married, and this is her bridal dress,'
whispered the Turtle-doves to each other. Their little pink feet
were quite frost-bitten, but they felt that it was their duty to
take a romantic view of the situation.
'Nonsense!' growled the Wolf. 'I tell you that it is all the fault
of the Government, and if you don't believe me I shall eat you.'
The Wolf had a thoroughly practical mind, and was never at a loss
for a good argument.
'Well, for my own part,' said the Woodpecker, who was a born
philosopher, 'I don't care an atomic theory for explanations. If a
thing is so, it is so, and at present it is terribly cold.'
Terribly cold it certainly was. The little Squirrels, who lived
inside the tall fir-tree, kept rubbing each other's noses to keep
themselves warm, and the Rabbits curled themselves up in their
holes, and did not venture even to look out of doors. The only
people who seemed to enjoy it were the great horned Owls. Their
feathers were quite stiff with rime, but they did not mind, and
they rolled their large yellow eyes, and called out to each other
across the forest, 'Tu-whit! Tu-whoo! Tu-whit! Tu-whoo! what
delightful weather we are having!'
On and on went the two Woodcutters, blowing lustily upon their
fingers, and stamping with their huge iron-shod boots upon the
caked snow. Once they sank into a deep drift, and came out as
white as millers are, when the stones are grinding; and once they
slipped on the hard smooth ice where the marsh-water was frozen,
and their faggots fell out of their bundles, and they had to pick
them up and bind them together again; and once they thought that
they had lost their way, and a great terror seized on them, for
they knew that the Snow is cruel to those who sleep in her arms.
But they put their trust in the good Saint Martin, who watches over
all travellers, and retraced their steps, and went warily, and at
last they reached the outskirts of the forest, and saw, far down in
the valley beneath them, the lights of the village in which they
dwelt.
So overjoyed were they at their deliverance that they laughed
aloud, and the Earth seemed to them like a flower of silver, and
the Moon like a flower of gold.
Yet, after that they had laughed they became sad, for they
remembered their poverty, and one of them said to the other, 'Why
did we make merry, seeing that life is for the rich, and not for
such as we are? Better that we had died of cold in the forest, or
that some wild beast had fallen upon us and slain us.'
'Truly,' answered his companion, 'much is given to some, and little
is given to others. Injustice has parcelled out the world, nor is
there equal division of aught save of sorrow.'
But as they were bewailing their misery to each other this strange
thing happened. There fell from heaven a very bright and beautiful
star. It slipped down the side of the sky, passing by the other
stars in its course, and, as they watched it wondering, it seemed
to them to sink behind a clump of willow-trees that stood hard by a
little sheepfold no more than a stone's-throw away.
'Why! there is a crook of gold for whoever finds it,' they cried,
and they set to and ran, so eager were they for the gold.
And one of them ran faster than his mate, and outstripped him, and
forced his way through the willows, and came out on the other side,
and lo! there was indeed a thing of gold lying on the white snow.
So he hastened towards it, and stooping down placed his hands upon
it, and it was a cloak of golden tissue, curiously wrought with
stars, and wrapped in many folds. And he cried out to his comrade
that he had found the treasure that had fallen from the sky, and
when his comrade had come up, they sat them down in the snow, and
loosened the folds of the cloak that they might divide the pieces
of gold. But, alas! no gold was in it, nor silver, nor, indeed,
treasure of any kind, but only a little child who was asleep.
And one of them said to the other: 'This is a bitter ending to our
hope, nor have we any good fortune, for what doth a child profit to
a man? Let us leave it here, and go our way, seeing that we are
poor men, and have children of our own whose bread we may not give
to another.'
But his companion answered him: 'Nay, but it were an evil thing to
leave the child to perish here in the snow, and though I am as poor
as thou art, and have many mouths to feed, and but little in the
pot, yet will I bring it home with me, and my wife shall have care
of it.'
So very tenderly he took up the child, and wrapped the cloak around
it to shield it from the harsh cold, and made his way down the hill
to the village, his comrade marvelling much at his foolishness and
softness of heart.
And when they came to the village, his comrade said to him, 'Thou
hast the child, therefore give me the cloak, for it is meet that we
should share.'
But he answered him: 'Nay, for the cloak is neither mine nor
thine, but the child's only,' and he bade him Godspeed, and went to
his own house and knocked.
And when his wife opened the door and saw that her husband had
returned safe to her, she put her arms round his neck and kissed
him, and took from his back the bundle of faggots, and brushed the
snow off his boots, and bade him come in.
But he said to her, 'I have found something in the forest, and I
have brought it to thee to have care of it,' and he stirred not
from the threshold.
'What is it?' she cried. 'Show it to me, for the house is bare,
and we have need of many things.' And he drew the cloak back, and
showed her the sleeping child.
'Alack, goodman!' she murmured, 'have we not children of our own,
that thou must needs bring a changeling to sit by the hearth? And
who knows if it will not bring us bad fortune? And how shall we
tend it?' And she was wroth against him.
'Nay, but it is a Star-Child,' he answered; and he told her the
strange manner of the finding of it.
But she would not be appeased, but mocked at him, and spoke
angrily, and cried: 'Our children lack bread, and shall we feed
the child of another? Who is there who careth for us? And who
giveth us food?'
'Nay, but God careth for the sparrows even, and feedeth them,' he
answered.
'Do not the sparrows die of hunger in the winter?' she asked. 'And
is it not winter now?'
And the man answered nothing, but stirred not from the threshold.
And a bitter wind from the forest came in through the open door,
and made her tremble, and she shivered, and said to him: 'Wilt
thou not close the door? There cometh a bitter wind into the
house, and I am cold.'
'Into a house where a heart is hard cometh there not always a
bitter wind?' he asked. And the woman answered him nothing, but
crept closer to the fire.
And after a time she turned round and looked at him, and her eyes
were full of tears. And he came in swiftly, and placed the child
in her arms, and she kissed it, and laid it in a little bed where
the youngest of their own children was lying. And on the morrow
the Woodcutter took the curious cloak of gold and placed it in a
great chest, and a chain of amber that was round the child's neck
his wife took and set it in the chest also.
So the Star-Child was brought up with the children of the
Woodcutter, and sat at the same board with them, and was their
playmate. And every year he became more beautiful to look at, so
that all those who dwelt in the village were filled with wonder,
for, while they were swarthy and black-haired, he was white and
delicate as sawn ivory, and his curls were like the rings of the
daffodil. His lips, also, were like the petals of a red flower,
and his eyes were like violets by a river of pure water, and his
body like the narcissus of a field where the mower comes not.
Yet did his beauty work him evil. For he grew proud, and cruel,
and selfish. The children of the Woodcutter, and the other
children of the village, he despised, saying that they were of mean
parentage, while he was noble, being sprang from a Star, and he
made himself master over them, and called them his servants. No
pity had he for the poor, or for those who were blind or maimed or
in any way afflicted, but would cast stones at them and drive them
forth on to the highway, and bid them beg their bread elsewhere, so
that none save the outlaws came twice to that village to ask for
alms. Indeed, he was as one enamoured of beauty, and would mock at
the weakly and ill-favoured, and make jest of them; and himself he
loved, and in summer, when the winds were still, he would lie by
the well in the priest's orchard and look down at the marvel of his
own face, and laugh for the pleasure he had in his fairness.
Often did the Woodcutter and his wife chide him, and say: 'We did
not deal with thee as thou dealest with those who are left
desolate, and have none to succour them. Wherefore art thou so
cruel to all who need pity?'
Often did the old priest send for him, and seek to teach him the
love of living things, saying to him: 'The fly is thy brother. Do
it no harm. The wild birds that roam through the forest have their
freedom. Snare them not for thy pleasure. God made the blind-worm
and the mole, and each has its place. Who art thou to bring pain
into God's world? Even the cattle of the field praise Him.'
But the Star-Child heeded not their words, but would frown and
flout, and go back to his companions, and lead them. And his
companions followed him, for he was fair, and fleet of foot, and
could dance, and pipe, and make music. And wherever the Star-Child
led them they followed, and whatever the Star-Child bade them do,
that did they. And when he pierced with a sharp reed the dim eyes
of the mole, they laughed, and when he cast stones at the leper
they laughed also. And in all things he ruled them, and they
became hard of heart even as he was.
Now there passed one day through the village a poor beggar-woman.
Her garments were torn and ragged, and her feet were bleeding from
the rough road on which she had travelled, and she was in very evil
plight. And being weary she sat her down under a chestnut-tree to
rest.
But when the Star-Child saw her, he said to his companions, 'See!
There sitteth a foul beggar-woman under that fair and green-leaved
tree. Come, let us drive her hence, for she is ugly and ill-
favoured.'
So he came near and threw stones at her, and mocked her, and she
looked at him with terror in her eyes, nor did she move her gaze
from him. And when the Woodcutter, who was cleaving logs in a
haggard hard by, saw what the Star-Child was doing, he ran up and
rebuked him, and said to him: 'Surely thou art hard of heart and
knowest not mercy, for what evil has this poor woman done to thee
that thou shouldst treat her in this wise?'
And the Star-Child grew red with anger, and stamped his foot upon
the ground, and said, 'Who art thou to question me what I do? I am
no son of thine to do thy bidding.'
'Thou speakest truly,' answered the Woodcutter, 'yet did I show
thee pity when I found thee in the forest.'
And when the woman heard these words she gave a loud cry, and fell
into a swoon. And the Woodcutter carried her to his own house, and
his wife had care of her, and when she rose up from the swoon into
which she had fallen, they set meat and drink before her, and bade
her have comfort.
But she would neither eat nor drink, but said to the Woodcutter,
'Didst thou not say that the child was found in the forest? And
was it not ten years from this day?'
And the Woodcutter answered, 'Yea, it was in the forest that I
found him, and it is ten years from this day.'
'And what signs didst thou find with him?' she cried. 'Bare he not
upon his neck a chain of amber? Was not round him a cloak of gold
tissue broidered with stars?'
'Truly,' answered the Woodcutter, 'it was even as thou sayest.'
And he took the cloak and the amber chain from the chest where they
lay, and showed them to her.
And when she saw them she wept for joy, and said, 'He is my little
son whom I lost in the forest. I pray thee send for him quickly,
for in search of him have I wandered over the whole world.'
So the Woodcutter and his wife went out and called to the Star-
Child, and said to him, 'Go into the house, and there shalt thou
find thy mother, who is waiting for thee.'
So he ran in, filled with wonder and great gladness. But when he
saw her who was waiting there, he laughed scornfully and said,
'Why, where is my mother? For I see none here but this vile
beggar-woman.'
And the woman answered him, 'I am thy mother.'
'Thou art mad to say so,' cried the Star-Child angrily. 'I am no
son of thine, for thou art a beggar, and ugly, and in rags.
Therefore get thee hence, and let me see thy foul face no more.'
'Nay, but thou art indeed my little son, whom I bare in the
forest,' she cried, and she fell on her knees, and held out her
arms to him. 'The robbers stole thee from me, and left thee to
die,' she murmured, 'but I recognised thee when I saw thee, and the
signs also have I recognised, the cloak of golden tissue and the
amber chain. Therefore I pray thee come with me, for over the
whole world have I wandered in search of thee. Come with me, my
son, for I have need of thy love.'
But the Star-Child stirred not from his place, but shut the doors
of his heart against her, nor was there any sound heard save the
sound of the woman weeping for pain.
And at last he spoke to her, and his voice was hard and bitter.
'If in very truth thou art my mother,' he said, 'it had been better
hadst thou stayed away, and not come here to bring me to shame,
seeing that I thought I was the child of some Star, and not a
beggar's child, as thou tellest me that I am. Therefore get thee
hence, and let me see thee no more.'
'Alas! my son,' she cried, 'wilt thou not kiss me before I go? For
I have suffered much to find thee.'
'Nay,' said the Star-Child, 'but thou art too foul to look at, and
rather would I kiss the adder or the toad than thee.'
So the woman rose up, and went away into the forest weeping
bitterly, and when the Star-Child saw that she had gone, he was
glad, and ran back to his playmates that he might play with them.
But when they beheld him coming, they mocked him and said, 'Why,
thou art as foul as the toad, and as loathsome as the adder. Get
thee hence, for we will not suffer thee to play with us,' and they
drave him out of the garden.
And the Star-Child frowned and said to himself, 'What is this that
they say to me? I will go to the well of water and look into it,
and it shall tell me of my beauty.'
So he went to the well of water and looked into it, and lo! his
face was as the face of a toad, and his body was sealed like an
adder. And he flung himself down on the grass and wept, and said
to himself, 'Surely this has come upon me by reason of my sin. For
I have denied my mother, and driven her away, and been proud, and
cruel to her. Wherefore I will go and seek her through the whole
world, nor will I rest till I have found her.'
And there came to him the little daughter of the Woodcutter, and
she put her hand upon his shoulder and said, 'What doth it matter
if thou hast lost thy comeliness? Stay with us, and I will not
mock at thee.'
And he said to her, 'Nay, but I have been cruel to my mother, and
as a punishment has this evil been sent to me. Wherefore I must go
hence, and wander through the world till I find her, and she give
me her forgiveness.'
So he ran away into the forest and called out to his mother to come
to him, but there was no answer. All day long he called to her,
and, when the sun set he lay down to sleep on a bed of leaves, and
the birds and the animals fled from him, for they remembered his
cruelty, and he was alone save for the toad that watched him, and
the slow adder that crawled past.
And in the morning he rose up, and plucked some bitter berries from
the trees and ate them, and took his way through the great wood,
weeping sorely. And of everything that he met he made inquiry if
perchance they had seen his mother.
He said to the Mole, 'Thou canst go beneath the earth. Tell me, is
my mother there?'
And the Mole answered, 'Thou hast blinded mine eyes. How should I
know?'
He said to the Linnet, 'Thou canst fly over the tops of the tall
trees, and canst see the whole world. Tell me, canst thou see my
mother?'
And the Linnet answered, 'Thou hast clipt my wings for thy
pleasure. How should I fly?'
And to the little Squirrel who lived in the fir-tree, and was
lonely, he said, 'Where is my mother?'
And the Squirrel answered, 'Thou hast slain mine. Dost thou seek
to slay thine also?'
And the Star-Child wept and bowed his head, and prayed forgiveness
of God's things, and went on through the forest, seeking for the
beggar-woman. And on the third day he came to the other side of
the forest and went down into the plain.
And when he passed through the villages the children mocked him,
and threw stones at him, and the carlots would not suffer him even
to sleep in the byres lest he might bring mildew on the stored
corn, so foul was he to look at, and their hired men drave him
away, and there was none who had pity on him. Nor could he hear
anywhere of the beggar-woman who was his mother, though for the
space of three years he wandered over the world, and often seemed
to see her on the road in front of him, and would call to her, and
run after her till the sharp flints made his feet to bleed. But
overtake her he could not, and those who dwelt by the way did ever
deny that they had seen her, or any like to her, and they made
sport of his sorrow.
For the space of three years he wandered over the world, and in the
world there was neither love nor loving-kindness nor charity for
him, but it was even such a world as he had made for himself in the
days of his great pride.
And one evening he came to the gate of a strong-walled city that
stood by a river, and, weary and footsore though he was, he made to
enter in. But the soldiers who stood on guard dropped their
halberts across the entrance, and said roughly to him, 'What is thy
business in the city?'
'I am seeking for my mother,' he answered, 'and I pray ye to suffer
me to pass, for it may be that she is in this city.'
But they mocked at him, and one of them wagged a black beard, and
set down his shield and cried, 'Of a truth, thy mother will not be
merry when she sees thee, for thou art more ill-favoured than the
toad of the marsh, or the adder that crawls in the fen. Get thee
gone. Get thee gone. Thy mother dwells not in this city.'
And another, who held a yellow banner in his hand, said to him,
'Who is thy mother, and wherefore art thou seeking for her?'
And he answered, 'My mother is a beggar even as I am, and I have
treated her evilly, and I pray ye to suffer me to pass that she may
give me her forgiveness, if it be that she tarrieth in this city.'
But they would not, and pricked him with their spears.
And, as he turned away weeping, one whose armour was inlaid with
gilt flowers, and on whose helmet couched a lion that had wings,
came up and made inquiry of the soldiers who it was who had sought
entrance. And they said to him, 'It is a beggar and the child of a
beggar, and we have driven him away.'
'Nay,' he cried, laughing, 'but we will sell the foul thing for a
slave, and his price shall be the price of a bowl of sweet wine.'
And an old and evil-visaged man who was passing by called out, and
said, 'I will buy him for that price,' and, when he had paid the
price, he took the Star-Child by the hand and led him into the
city.
And after that they had gone through many streets they came to a
little door that was set in a wall that was covered with a
pomegranate tree. And the old man touched the door with a ring of
graved jasper and it opened, and they went down five steps of brass
into a garden filled with black poppies and green jars of burnt
clay. And the old man took then from his turban a scarf of figured
silk, and bound with it the eyes of the Star-Child, and drave him
in front of him. And when the scarf was taken off his eyes, the
Star-Child found himself in a dungeon, that was lit by a lantern of
horn.
And the old man set before him some mouldy bread on a trencher and
said, 'Eat,' and some brackish water in a cup and said, 'Drink,'
and when he had eaten and drunk, the old man went out, locking the
door behind him and fastening it with an iron chain.
And on the morrow the old man, who was indeed the subtlest of the
magicians of Libya and had learned his art from one who dwelt in
the tombs of the Nile, came in to him and frowned at him, and said,
'In a wood that is nigh to the gate of this city of Giaours there
are three pieces of gold. One is of white gold, and another is of
yellow gold, and the gold of the third one is red. To-day thou
shalt bring me the piece of white gold, and if thou bringest it not
back, I will beat thee with a hundred stripes. Get thee away
quickly, and at sunset I will be waiting for thee at the door of
the garden. See that thou bringest the white gold, or it shall go
ill with thee, for thou art my slave, and I have bought thee for
the price of a bowl of sweet wine.' And he bound the eyes of the
Star-Child with the scarf of figured silk, and led him through the
house, and through the garden of poppies, and up the five steps of
brass. And having opened the little door with his ring he set him
in the street.
And the Star-Child went out of the gate of the city, and came to
the wood of which the Magician had spoken to him.
Now this wood was very fair to look at from without, and seemed
full of singing birds and of sweet-scented flowers, and the Star-
Child entered it gladly. Yet did its beauty profit him little, for
wherever he went harsh briars and thorns shot up from the ground
and encompassed him, and evil nettles stung him, and the thistle
pierced him with her daggers, so that he was in sore distress. Nor
could he anywhere find the piece of white gold of which the
Magician had spoken, though he sought for it from morn to noon, and
from noon to sunset. And at sunset he set his face towards home,
weeping bitterly, for he knew what fate was in store for him.
But when he had reached the outskirts of the wood, he heard from a
thicket a cry as of some one in pain. And forgetting his own
sorrow he ran back to the place, and saw there a little Hare caught
in a trap that some hunter had set for it.
And the Star-Child had pity on it, and released it, and said to it,
'I am myself but a slave, yet may I give thee thy freedom.'
And the Hare answered him, and said: 'Surely thou hast given me
freedom, and what shall I give thee in return?'
And the Star-Child said to it, 'I am seeking for a piece of white
gold, nor can I anywhere find it, and if I bring it not to my
master he will beat me.'
'Come thou with me,' said the Hare, 'and I will lead thee to it,
for I know where it is hidden, and for what purpose.'
So the Star-Child went with the Hare, and lo! in the cleft of a
great oak-tree he saw the piece of white gold that he was seeking.
And he was filled with joy, and seized it, and said to the Hare,
'The service that I did to thee thou hast rendered back again many
times over, and the kindness that I showed thee thou hast repaid a
hundred-fold.'
'Nay,' answered the Hare, 'but as thou dealt with me, so I did deal
with thee,' and it ran away swiftly, and the Star-Child went
towards the city.
Now at the gate of the city there was seated one who was a leper.
Over his face hung a cowl of grey linen, and through the eyelets
his eyes gleamed like red coals. And when he saw the Star-Child
coming, he struck upon a wooden bowl, and clattered his bell, and
called out to him, and said, 'Give me a piece of money, or I must
die of hunger. For they have thrust me out of the city, and there
is no one who has pity on me.'
'Alas!' cried the Star-Child, 'I have but one piece of money in my
wallet, and if I bring it not to my master he will beat me, for I
am his slave.'
But the leper entreated him, and prayed of him, till the Star-Child
had pity, and gave him the piece of white gold.
And when he came to the Magician's house, the Magician opened to
him, and brought him in, and said to him, 'Hast thou the piece of
white gold?' And the Star-Child answered, 'I have it not.' So the
Magician fell upon him, and beat him, and set before him an empty
trencher, and said, 'Eat,' and an empty cup, and said, 'Drink,' and
flung him again into the dungeon.
And on the morrow the Magician came to him, and said, 'If to-day
thou bringest me not the piece of yellow gold, I will surely keep
thee as my slave, and give thee three hundred stripes.'
So the Star-Child went to the wood, and all day long he searched
for the piece of yellow gold, but nowhere could he find it. And at
sunset he sat him down and began to weep, and as he was weeping
there came to him the little Hare that he had rescued from the
trap,
And the Hare said to him, 'Why art thou weeping? And what dost
thou seek in the wood?'
And the Star-Child answered, 'I am seeking for a piece of yellow
gold that is hidden here, and if I find it not my master will beat
me, and keep me as a slave.'
'Follow me,' cried the Hare, and it ran through the wood till it
came to a pool of water. And at the bottom of the pool the piece
of yellow gold was lying.
'How shall I thank thee?' said the Star-Child, 'for lo! this is the
second time that you have succoured me.'
'Nay, but thou hadst pity on me first,' said the Hare, and it ran
away swiftly.
And the Star-Child took the piece of yellow gold, and put it in his
wallet, and hurried to the city. But the leper saw him coming, and
ran to meet him, and knelt down and cried, 'Give me a piece of
money or I shall die of hunger.'
And the Star-Child said to him, 'I have in my wallet but one piece
of yellow gold, and if I bring it not to my master he will beat me
and keep me as his slave.'
But the leper entreated him sore, so that the Star-Child had pity
on him, and gave him the piece of yellow gold.
And when he came to the Magician's house, the Magician opened to
him, and brought him in, and said to him, 'Hast thou the piece of
yellow gold?' And the Star-Child said to him, 'I have it not.' So
the Magician fell upon him, and beat him, and loaded him with
chains, and cast him again into the dungeon.
And on the morrow the Magician came to him, and said, 'If to-day
thou bringest me the piece of red gold I will set thee free, but if
thou bringest it not I will surely slay thee.'
So the Star-Child went to the wood, and all day long he searched
for the piece of red gold, but nowhere could he find it. And at
evening he sat him down and wept, and as he was weeping there came
to him the little Hare.
And the Hare said to him, 'The piece of red gold that thou seekest
is in the cavern that is behind thee. Therefore weep no more but
be glad.'
'How shall I reward thee?' cried the Star-Child, 'for lo! this is
the third time thou hast succoured me.'
'Nay, but thou hadst pity on me first,' said the Hare, and it ran
away swiftly.
And the Star-Child entered the cavern, and in its farthest corner
he found the piece of red gold. So he put it in his wallet, and
hurried to the city. And the leper seeing him coming, stood in the
centre of the road, and cried out, and said to him, 'Give me the
piece of red money, or I must die,' and the Star-Child had pity on
him again, and gave him the piece of red gold, saying, 'Thy need is
greater than mine.' Yet was his heart heavy, for he knew what evil
fate awaited him.
But lo! as he passed through the gate of the city, the guards bowed
down and made obeisance to him, saying, 'How beautiful is our
lord!' and a crowd of citizens followed him, and cried out, 'Surely
there is none so beautiful in the whole world!' so that the Star-
Child wept, and said to himself, 'They are mocking me, and making
light of my misery.' And so large was the concourse of the people,
that he lost the threads of his way, and found himself at last in a
great square, in which there was a palace of a King.
And the gate of the palace opened, and the priests and the high
officers of the city ran forth to meet him, and they abased
themselves before him, and said, 'Thou art our lord for whom we
have been waiting, and the son of our King.'
And the Star-Child answered them and said, 'I am no king's son, but
the child of a poor beggar-woman. And how say ye that I am
beautiful, for I know that I am evil to look at?'
Then he, whose armour was inlaid with gilt flowers, and on whose
helmet crouched a lion that had wings, held up a shield, and cried,
'How saith my lord that he is not beautiful?'
And the Star-Child looked, and lo! his face was even as it had
been, and his comeliness had come back to him, and he saw that in
his eyes which he had not seen there before.
And the priests and the high officers knelt down and said to him,
'It was prophesied of old that on this day should come he who was
to rule over us. Therefore, let our lord take this crown and this
sceptre, and be in his justice and mercy our King over us.'
But he said to them, 'I am not worthy, for I have denied the mother
who bare me, nor may I rest till I have found her, and known her
forgiveness. Therefore, let me go, for I must wander again over
the world, and may not tarry here, though ye bring me the crown and
the sceptre.' And as he spake he turned his face from them towards
the street that led to the gate of the city, and lo! amongst the
crowd that pressed round the soldiers, he saw the beggar-woman who
was his mother, and at her side stood the leper, who had sat by the
road.
And a cry of joy broke from his lips, and he ran over, and kneeling
down he kissed the wounds on his mother's feet, and wet them with
his tears. He bowed his head in the dust, and sobbing, as one
whose heart might break, he said to her: 'Mother, I denied thee in
the hour of my pride. Accept me in the hour of my humility.
Mother, I gave thee hatred. Do thou give me love. Mother, I
rejected thee. Receive thy child now.' But the beggar-woman
answered him not a word.
And he reached out his hands, and clasped the white feet of the
leper, and said to him: 'Thrice did I give thee of my mercy. Bid
my mother speak to me once.' But the leper answered him not a
word.
And he sobbed again and said: 'Mother, my suffering is greater
than I can bear. Give me thy forgiveness, and let me go back to
the forest.' And the beggar-woman put her hand on his head, and
said to him, 'Rise,' and the leper put his hand on his head, and
said to him, 'Rise,' also.
And he rose up from his feet, and looked at them, and lo! they were
a King and a Queen.
And the Queen said to him, 'This is thy father whom thou hast
succoured.'
And the King said, 'This is thy mother whose feet thou hast washed
with thy tears.' And they fell on his neck and kissed him, and
brought him into the palace and clothed him in fair raiment, and
set the crown upon his head, and the sceptre in his hand, and over
the city that stood by the river he ruled, and was its lord. Much
justice and mercy did he show to all, and the evil Magician he
banished, and to the Woodcutter and his wife he sent many rich
gifts, and to their children he gave high honour. Nor would he
suffer any to be cruel to bird or beast, but taught love and
loving-kindness and charity, and to the poor he gave bread, and to
the naked he gave raiment, and there was peace and plenty in the
land.
Yet ruled he not long, so great had been his suffering, and so
bitter the fire of his testing, for after the space of three years
he died. And he who came after him ruled evilly.
End of The Star-Child
End of A House Of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde