------------------------------- "The Past is over and fled; Named new, we name i the old; Therof some tale hath been told, But no word comes from the dead. "Still we say as we go,-- 'Strange to think by the way, Whatever there is to know, That shall we know one day.'" -------------------------------The Epilogue "And yet, sir," I have said, by and by, "yet it is only by preserving faith in human dreams that we may, after all, perhaps some day make them come true."
And Kennaston, without bothering to look toward me, had gravely inclined his head.
"In fact," he remarked, "that sums up everything nicely enough. So here , upon this note of temperate optimism--howsoever cauitously conditioned and behedged and qualified,--here let us end the long journying of the life of Manuel. For logic now demands that of me, here and in no other place."
I was, you may depend upon it, startled.... I saw then that the old fellow was still looking, not at me, but into the fireplace where the red glowing seemed to detain his gaze. And I felt that this was not quite Felix Kennaston, but, rather, through the virtue of that small steady glowing, in some part Horvendile who was now talking..
"Meanwhile," he said, "that life has journeyed a far way, from the body of the Redeemer of Poictesme to the body of Felix Kennaston, and from the high turrents of Storisende to the penned-in, quiet library of Alcuid. There has been adventuring in the journey, much of it pleasant enough: the codes of chivalrous and gallant persons, and of little poets also, have been fairly tested in many lands and times: yet the comedy has not, after all, very greatly differed in any place or era."
He moved, uneasily. He sighed. He said, syill looking down into the fire:
"I deduce that the thing said to Florian de Puysange by the red-headed guide of all, holds true. The conedy of the life of Manuel does not vary. The first act is the imagining of the place where contentment exists and may be cone to; and the second act reveals the striving toward, and the third act the falling short of, that shining goal,--or else, the attaining of it, to discover that happiness, after all, abides a thought farther down the bogged, rocky, clogged, befogged, heart-breaking road."
To this I replied with quiet stubborness. I said:
"But, even so,--and even then,--the wise will yet reflect that it is only be preserving faith in human dreams that we may, after all, perhaps some day make them come true,--and that we may thus add to the comedy of the life of men an afterpiece."
"You may be right," a strangely tired and shrunk looking Kennaston answered me, "and certainly I can not go so far as to say that you are wrong. But, still, at the same time--! Yes, that is how I feel about it, even now.... In any case, the journeying must by every rule of logic end here. For the life of Manual, housed, after twenty-two removes in the fat body of Felix Kennaston, has, after all, regained the road to Storisende--"
At that I remarked: "I, in my turn, deduce, sir, that, now you possess--as you call the thing,--the complete sigil, you must have used it yet again, in some manner which you have never told me about?"
He said: "I have not ever employed the complete sigil. And it is true I have not told you everything. Why should I? No Author ever does.... So, as yet, this Kennaston waits, in the quiet library at Alcluid, mildly bored and a bit puzzled by the Lichfield in whose affairs he has somehow become involved. But an assured way out of all these drab annoyances is known to him, and the way back is known, also to the Poictesme from which the life of Manuel a great long while ago set forth. With Felix Kennaston--or, if you prefer it so, with Horvendile,--rests safe this secret and peculiar knowledge as to how the life of Manuel may yet repair to it's first home after some seven centuries of exile. Thus will the traveller return--by and by--to the place of his starting; the legend of the second coming of the Redeemer will be justified, in, at all events, my lesser world; and the tale to Manuel's life will have come again, as it did once becide the pool of Haranton, full circle."
"Alas, my friend," I observed, "if you spoke Greek or Coptic now it might be I would understand you rather better."
But I was at large pains to talk unemphatically, and to keep my voice well lowered. For it was plain enough that this pudgy, old, meurotic wreckage o a man, once more, was partly hypnotized, by gazing thus steadly into the small bright fire; and I was finding his queer borderland condition o be of some interest.
He said then: "Felix Kennaston, alone of all the Manuelides, hes returned to Storisende. He too has acquired that sigil and that secret--forever unknown to you, my poor Harrowby,--through which this elderly and this rather famous person has glimpsed, howsoever brokenly, the loves and the desires and the adventures he had when he wore another body than the gray body which he now wears. And to this Felix Kennaston also has been shown--a bit tantalizingly--the face of an unforgotten boy who has been free, through seven whole centuries, to follow after his own thinking and his own desires.... For the comedy of the life of Manuel, I repeat, does not ever vary."
"Yet by and by," I prompted him, "you, Horvendille, will employ the complete sigil?"
"Yes, by and by," the droning, very tired voice went on. And then a lean and snub-nosed stranger will come to me also. 'and what is that thing? this stranger will perforce be asking, as he asks of everyone at long last. Nor can the answer ever vary, whether it be you or I or any other man who speaks at the end of his living here "It is the figure of a man which I have modeled and modeled and cannot get exactly to my liking."... For thus it has been in the old days and in every day. And this is the end of every comedy. Yet--I agree with you, my Harrowby,--yet, if the Author will it, there may be appended to any comedy an afterpiece. Meanwhile, so far as I may judge, the life of Manuel ends here."
Thereafter he sat gazing rather moodily into the fire. And I too summed up in brief my entire knowledge as to this matter by saying nothing whatever.