There was no continuity in these dreams save that Etarre was in each of them. A dream would usually begin with some lightheaded topsyturviness, as when Kennaston found himself gazing forlornly down at his remote feet--having grown so tall that they were yards away from him and he was afraid to stand up--or when thin men in black hoods carefully explained the importance of the task set him by quoting fragmentgs of the multiplication tables, or when a bull who happened to be the King of Spain was pursuing him through a city of blind people. But presently, as dregs settle a little by a little in a glass of water and leave it clear, his dream-world would become rational and compliant with familiar natural laws, and Ettarre would be there--desirable above al l other contents of the universe, and not to be touched under penalty of ending all.
Sometimes they would be alone in places which he did not recognize, sometimes they would be living under the Stuarts or the Valois or the Caesars, or other dynasties long since unkingdomed, human lives whose obligations and imbroglios affected Horvendile and Ettarre to much that half-serious concern with which one follows the action of a romance or a well-acted play; for it was perfectly understood between Horvendile and Ettarre that they were incolved in the affairs of a dream.
Ettare seemed to remember nothing of the happenings Kennaston had invented in his book. And Guiron and Maugis d'Aigremontt and Count Emmerick and the other people in The Audit at Storisende--once more to give Men Who Loved Alison its origin al title--were names that rang familiar to her somehow, she confessed, but without her knowing why. And so, Kennaston came at last to comprehend that peerhaps the Etarre he loved was not the heroine of his book inexplicably vivified; but, rather, that in the book he had, just as inexplicably, drawn a blurred portrait of the Ettarre he loved, that ageless lovable and loving woman of whom all poets had been granted fitful broken glimpses--dimly prefiguring her advent into his life too, with pallid and feeb le visionings. But of this he was not ever sure; nor did he greatly care, now that he had his dreams.
There was, be it repeated, no continuity in these save that Ettarre was in each of them; that alone they had in common: but each dream conformed to certain general laws. For instance, there was never any confusion of time--that is, a dream extended over precisely the amount of time he actually slept, so that each dream-life was limited to some eight hours or therabouts. No dream was ever iterated, nor did he ever twice find himself in the same surroundings as touched chronology; thus, he was often in Paris and Constantinople and Alexandria and Rome and London, revisiting even the exact spot, the very street-corner, which had figgured in some former dream; but as terrestrial time went, the events of his first dream would either have happened years ago or else not be due to happen until a great while later.
He never dreamed of absolutely barbaric orderless epochs, nor of happenings (so far as he could ascertain) elsewhere than in Europe and about the mediterranean coasts; even within these confines his dreams were as a rule restricted to urban matters, rarel y straying beyond city walls: his hypothesis in explanation of these facts was curious, but too fine-spun to be here repeated profitably.
For a while Kennaston thought these dreams to be bits of lives he had lived in previous incarnations; later he was inclined to discard this view. He never to his knowledge lived through precisely the same moment in two different capacitiies and places; b ut more than once he came within a few years of doing this, so that even had he died immediately after the earlier-timed dream, it would have been impossible for him to have been reborn and reach the age he had attained in that dream whose period was only a trifle later. In his dreams Kennaston's age varied slightly, but was almost always in plesant proximity to twenty-five. Thus, he was in Jerusalem on the day of the Cruxifixion and was aged about twenty-three; yet in another dream he was at Capreae wh en Tiberius died there, seven year afterward, and Kennaston was then still in the early twenties: and again, he was in London, at Whitehall, in 1649, and at Vaux-le-Vicomte near Fontainebleau in 1661, being on each occasion twenty-three or -four. Kennas ton could suggest no explanation of this.
He often regretted that he was never in any dream anybody of historical prominence, so that he could have found out what became of him after the dream ended. But though he sometimes talked with notable persons--inwardly gloating meanwhile over his knowled ge of what would be the outcome of their warfaring or statecraft, and of the manner and even the hour of their deaths--he himself seemed fated, as a rule, never to be any one of importance in the world's estimation. Indeed, as Kennaston cheerfully recogn ized, his was not a temperament likely to succeed, as touched material matters, in any imaginable state of society; there was not, and never had been, any workaday world in which--as he had said at Storisende--he and his like would not, in so far as tempo ral prizes were concerned, appear to waste at loose ends and live futilely. Then, moreover, in each dream he was woefully hampered by inability to recall preceding events in the life he was then leading, which handicap doomed him to redoubled inefficienc ies. But that did not matter now, in view of his prodigal recompenses....
It was some while before the man made the quaint disovery that in these dreams he did not in any way resemble Feliix kennaston physically. They were astray in an autumn forest, resting beside a small fire which he had kindled in the shelter of a boulder, when Ettarre chanced to speak of his brown eyes, and thereby perplex him. But there was in this dream nothing which would reflect his countenance; and it was later, in Troy Town (Laomedon ruled the city then, and Priam they saw as a lad playing at marbl es in a paved courtyard, where tethered oxen watched him over curiously painted mangers) that Kennaston looked into a steel mirror, framed with intertwined ivory serpents that had emeralds for eyes, and found there a puzzled stranger.
Thus it was he discovered that in these dreams he was a tall lean youngster, with ruddy cheeks, wide-set brown eyes, and a smallish head covered with crisp tight-curling dark-red hair; nor did his appearance ever change, save only once, in any subsequent dream. What he saw was so different from the pudgy pasty man of forty-odd who, he knew, lay at this moment in Felix Kennaston's bed, breathing heavily and clasping a bit of metal in his pudgy hand that the stranger in the mirror laughed appreciatively.