in the while that the maid answered: "None has harmed me, Guiron. Oh, and you?"
"Maugis is dead," he answered joyously. "See here he lies, slain by brave Horvendile. And the rouges who followed Maugis are all killed or fled. Our woes are at an end, dear love."
Then Ettarre saw that that Horvendile indeed waited becide the dead body of Maugis d'Aigremont. And the clerk stayed motionless while she told Guiron of Horvendile's baleful work.
Sir Guiron then said: "Is this true speech, Horvendile?"
"It is quite true I have done all these things, messire," Horvendile answered quietly.
"And with what purpose? said Sir Guiron, very sadly; for to him too it seemed certain that such senseless treachery could not spring from anything but madness, and he had loved Horvendile.
"I will tell you," Horvendile replied, "though I much fear you will not understand--" He meditated shook his head, smiling. "Indeed, how is it possible for me to make you understand? Well, I blurt out the truth. There was once in a land very far away f rom this land-- in my country --a writer of romances. And once he constructed a romance which, after a hackneyed custom of my country, he pretended to translate from an old manuscript written by an ancieny clerk-- called Horvendile. It told of Horvendil e's part in the love-business between Sit Guiron des Rocques and La Beale Ettarre. I am that writer of romance. This room, this castle, all the broad rolling countryside without, is but a portion of my dream, and these places have no existence save in m y dreams, and fancies. And you , messire-- and you also, madame --and dead Maugiss here, and all the others who seemed so real to me, are but the puppets I fashioned and shifted, for a tale's sake, in that romance which now draws to a close."
He paused; and Sir Guiron sighed. "My poor Horvendile!" was all he said.
"It is not possible for you to believe me, of course. And it may be that I, too, am only a figment of some greater dream, in just such case as yours, and that I, too, cannot understand. It may be the very cream of the jest that my country is no more rea l than Storisende. How could I judge if I, too, were a puppet? It is a thought which often troubles me...."
Horvendile deliberated, then spoke more briskly. "at all events, I most return now to my own country, which I do not live a I live this bright fantastis Poictesme that I created-- or seemed to create --and wherein I was-- or seemed to be --omnipotent."
Horvendile drew a deep breath; and he looked downward at the corpse he had bereft of pride and dareing and agility. "Farewell, Maugis! It would be indecorous, above all in omnipotence, to express anything save abhorrence toward you: yet i delighted in you as you lived and and moved; and it was not because of displeasure with uou that I brought you to disaster. Hence, also, one might evolve a heady analogue...."
Guiron was wondering what he might do in accord and with clemency. He did not stir as Horvendile came nearer. The clerk showed very pitiful and mean becide this stately champion in full armor, all shining metal, save for a surcoat of rose colored stuff irregularly worked with crescents of silver.
"Farewell, Sir Guiron!" Horvendile then said. "There are no men like you in my country. I have found you difficuly to manage; and I may confess now that I kept you so long imprisioned at Caer Idryn, and caused you to spennd so many chapters oversea in heathendom, mainly in order that I might here weave out my romance untroubled by your disconcerting and rather wooden perfection. But you are not the person to suspect ill of your creator. You ate all that I once ment to be, Guiron, all that I have forg otten her to be; and for a dead boy's sake I love you."
"Listen, poor wretch!" Sir Guiron answered, sternly; "you have this night done horrible mischief, you have caused the death of many estimable persons. Yet I have loved you, Horvendile, and I know that Heaven, through Heaven's inscrutable wisdom, has smi tten you with madness. That stair leads to the postern on the east side of the castle. Go forth from Storisende as quickly as you may, whilst none save us knows of your double-dealings. It may be that I am doing great wrong; but I cannot forget I have twice owed my life to you. If I must err at all hazards, I prefer to err upon the side of gratitude and mercy."
"That is said very like you," Horvendile replied. "Eh, it was not for nothing I endowed you with sky-towering magnanimity. Assuredly, I go, messire. And so, farewell Ettarre!" Long and long Horvendile gazed upon the maiden. "There is no woman like y ou in my country, Ettarre. I can find no woman anywhere resembling you whom dreams alone may win to. It is a little things to say that I have loved you; it is a bitter thing to know that I must live among, and pursue, and win, those other women."
"My poor Horvendile," she answered, very lovely in her compassion, "you are in love with fantasies."
He held her hand, touching her for the last time; and he trembled. "Yes, I am in love with my fantasies, Ettarre; and, none the less, I must return into my own country."
As he considered the future, in the man's face showed only puzzled lassitude; and you saw therein a quaint resemblance to Maugis d'Aigremont. "I find my country an inadequate place in which to live," says Horvendile. "Oh, many persons live there happily enough! or, at worst, they seem to find the prizes and the applause of my country worth striving for whole-heartedly. But there is that in some of us which gets no exercise there; and we struggle blindly, with impotent yearning, to gain outlet for great powers which we know that we possess, even though we do not know their names. And so, we dreamers wander at adventure to Storisende--oh, and into more perilous realms sometimes!--in search of a life that will find employment for every faculty we have. For life in my country does not engross us utterly. We dreamers waste there at loose ends, waste futilely. All which we can ever see and hear and touch there, we dreamers dimly know, is at best but a portion of the truth, and is possibly not true al all . Oh, yes! it may be that we are not sane; could we be sure of that, it would be a comfort. But, as it is, we dreamers only know that life in my country does not content us, and never can content us. So we struggle, for a tiny dear-bought while, into other and fairer-seeming lands in search of--we know not what! And, after a litle"--he relinquished the maiden's hands, spread out his own hands, shrugging--" after a little, we must go back into my country and live there as best we may."
A whimisical wise smile now visited Ettarre's lips. Her hands went to her breast, and presently one half the broken sigil of Scoteia lay in Horvendile's hand. "You will not always abide in your own country, Horvendile. Some day you will return to us at Storisende. The sign of the Dark Goddess will prove your safe-conduct then if Guiron and I be yet alive."
Horvendile raised to his mouth the talisman warmed by contact with her sweet flesh. "It may be you will not live for a great while," he says; "but that will befall through no lack of loving pains on your creator's part."
Then Horvendile left them. In the dark passage-way he paused, looking back at Guiron and Ettarre for a heart-beat. Guiron and Ettarre had already forgotten his existence. Hand in hand they stood in the bright room, young, beautiful and glad. Silently their lips met.
Horvendile closed the door, and so left Storisende forever. Without he came into a lonely quiet-colored world already expectant of dawn's occupancy. Already the tree-trunks eastward showed like the black bars of a grate. Thus he walked in twilight, car rying half the sigil of Scoteia....