The Day Boy and the Night Girl
by George MacDonald
VI. How Photogen
VIII. The Lamp
X. The Great
XI. The Sunset.
XII. The Garden
XIV. The Sun
XV. The Coward
XVI. An Evil
XX. All Is Well
THERE was once a witch who desired to know everything. But the
wiser a witch is, the harder she knocks her head against the wall when
she comes to it. Her name was Watho, and she had a wolf in her mind.
She cared for nothing in itself -- only for knowing it. She was not
naturally cruel, but the wolf had made her cruel.
She was tall and graceful, with a white skin, red hair, and black
eyes, which had a red fire in them. She was straight and strong, but
now and then would fall bent together, shudder, and sit for a moment
with her head turned over her shoulder, as if the wolf had got out of
her mind onto her back.
THIS witch got two ladies to visit her. One of them belonged to the
court, and her husband had been sent on a far and difficult embassy.
The other was a young widow whose husband had lately died, and who had
since lost her sight. Watho lodged them in different parts of her
castle, and they did not know of each other's existence.
The castle stood on the side of a hill sloping gently down into a
arrow valley, in which was a river with a pebbly channel and a
continual song. The garden went down to the bank of the river, enclosed
by high walls, which crossed the river and there stopped. Each wall had
a double row of battlements, and between the rows was a narrow walk.
In the topmost story of the castle, the Lady Aurora occupied a
spacious apartment of several large rooms looking southward. The
windows projected oriel-wise over the garden below, and there was a
splendid view from them both up and down and across the river. The
opposite side of the valley was steep, but not very high. Far away
snowpeaks were visible. These rooms Aurora seldom left, but their airy
spaces, the brilliant landscape and sky, the plentiful sunlight, the
musical instruments, books, pictures, curiosities, with the company of
Watho, who made herself charming, precluded all dullness. She had
venison and feathered game to eat, milk and pale sunny sparkling wine
She had hair of the yellow gold, waved and rippled; her skin was
fair, not white like Watho's, and her eyes were of the blue of the
heavens when bluest; her features were delicate but strong, her mouth
large and finely curved, and haunted with smiles.
BEHIND the castle the hill rose abruptly; the northeastern tower,
indeed, was in contact with the rock and communicated with the interior
of it. For in the rock was a series of chambers, known only to Watho
and the one servant whom she trusted, called Falca. Some former owner
had constructed these chambers after the tomb of an Egyptian king, and
probably with the same design, for in the center of one of them stood
what could only be a sarcophagus, but that and others were walled off.
The sides and roofs of them were carved in low relief, and curiously
painted. Here the witch lodged the blind lady, whose name was Vesper.
Her eyes were black, with long black lashes; her skin had a look of
darkened silver, but was of purest tint and grain; her hair was black
and fine and straight flowing; her features were exquisitely formed,
and if less beautiful yet more lovely from sadness; she always looked
as if she wanted to lie down and not rise again. She did not know she
was lodged in a tomb, though now and then she wondered why she never
touched a window. There were many couches, covered with richest silk,
and soft as her own cheek, for her to lie upon; and the carpets were so
thick, she might have cast herself down anywhere -- as befitted a tomb.
The place was dry and warm, and cunningly pierced for air, so that it
was always fresh, and lacked only sunlight. There the witch fed her
upon milk, and wine dark as a carbuncle, and pomegranates, and purple
grapes, and birds that dwell in marshy places; and she played to her
mournful tunes, and caused wailful violins to attend her, and told her
sad tales, thus holding her ever in an atmosphere of sweet sorrow.
WATHO at length had her desire, for witches often get what they want:
a splendid boy was born to the fair Aurora. Just as the sun rose, he
opened his eyes. Watho carried him immediately to a distant part of the
castle, and persuaded the mother that he never cried but once, dying
the moment he was born. Overcome with grief, Aurora left the castle as
soon as she was able, and Watho never invited her again.
And now the witch's care was that the child should not know
darkness. Persistently she trained him until at last he never slept
during the day and never woke during the night. She never let him see
anything black, and even kept all dull colors out of his way. Never, if
she could help it, would she let a shadow fall upon him, watching
against shadows as if they had been live things that would hurt him.
All day he basked in the full splendor of the sun, in the same large
rooms his mother had occupied. Watho used him to the sun, until he
could bear more of it than any dark-blooded African. In the hottest of
every day, she stripped him and laid him in it, that he might ripen
like a peach; and the boy rejoiced in it, and would resist being
dressed again. She brought all her knowledge to bear on making his
muscles strong and elastic and swiftly responsive -- that his soul, she
said laughingly, might sit in every fibre, be all in every part, and
awake the moment of call. His hair was of the red gold, but his eyes
grew darker as he grew, until they were as black as Vesper's. He was
the merriest of creatures, always laughing, always loving, for a moment
raging, then laughing afresh. Watho called him Photogen.
FIVE or six months after the birth of Photogen, the dark lady also
gave birth to a baby: in the windowless tomb of a blind mother, in the
dead of night, under the feeble rays of a lamp in an alabaster globe, a
girl came into the darkness with a wail. And just as she was born for
the first time, Vesper was born for the second, and passed into a world
as unknown to her as this was to her child -- who would have to be born
yet again before she could see her mother.
Watho called her Nycteris, and she grew as like Vesper as possible
-- in all but one particular. She had the same dark skin, dark
eyelashes and brows, dark hair, and gentle sad look; but she had just
the eyes of Aurora, the mother of Photogen, and if they grew darker as
she grew older, it was only a darker blue. Watho, with the help of
Falca, took the greatest possible care of her -- in every way
consistent with her plans, that is, -- the main point in which was that
she should never see any light but what came from the lamp. Hence her
optic nerves, and indeed her whole apparatus for seeing, grew both
larger and more sensitive; her eyes, indeed, stopped short only of
being too large. Under her dark hair and forehead and eyebrows, they
looked like two breaks in a cloudy night-sky, through which peeped the
heaven where the stars and no clouds live. She was a sadly dainty
little creature. No one in the world except those two was aware of the
being of the little bat. Watho trained her to sleep during the day and
wake during the night. She taught her music, in which she was herself a
proficient, and taught her scarcely anything else.
VI. How Photogen Grew
THE hollow in which the castle of Watho lay was a cleft in a plain
rather than a valley among hills, for at the top of its steep sides,
both north and south, was a tableland, large and wide. It was covered
with rich grass and flowers, with here and there a wood, the outlying
colony of a great forest. These grassy plains were the finest hunting
grounds in the world. Great herds of small but fierce cattle, with
humps and shaggy manes, roved about them, also antelopes and gnus, and
the tiny roedeer, while the woods were swarming with wild creatures.
The tables of the castle were mainly supplied from them. The chief of
Watho's huntsmen was a fine fellow, and when Photogen began to outgrow
the training she could give him, she handed him over to Fargu. He with
a will set about teaching him all he knew. He got him pony after pony,
larger and larger as he grew, every one less manageable than that which
had preceded it, and advanced him from pony to horse, and from horse to
horse, until he was equal to anything in that kind which the country
produced. In similar fashion he trained him to the use of bow and
arrow, substituting every three months a stronger bow and longer
arrows; and soon he became, even on horseback, a wonderful archer. He
was but fourteen when he killed his first bull, causing jubilation
among the huntsmen, and indeed, through all the castle, for there too
he was the favorite. Every day, almost as soon as the sun was up, he
went out hunting, and would in general be out nearly the whole of the
day. But Watho had laid upon Fargu just one commandment, namely, that
Photogen should on no account, whatever the plea, be out until sundown,
or so near it as to wake in him the desire of seeing what was going to
happen; and this commandment Fargu was anxiously careful not to break;
for although he would not have trembled had a whole herd of bulls come
down upon him, charging at full speed across the level, and not an
arrow left in his quiver, he was more than afraid of his mistress. When
she looked at him in a certain way, he felt, he said, as if his heart
turned to ashes in his breast, and what ran in his veins was no longer
blood, but milk and water. So that, ere long, as Photogen grew older,
Fargu began to tremble, for he found it steadily growing harder to
restrain him. So full of life was he, as Fargu said to his mistress,
much to her content, that he was more like a live thunderbolt than a
human being. He did not know what fear was, and that not because he did
not know danger; for he had had a severe laceration from the razor-like
tusk of a boar -- whose spine, however, he had severed with one blow of
his hunting knife, before Fargu could reach him with defense. When he
would spur his horse into the midst of a herd of bulls, carrying only
his bow and his short sword, or shoot an arrow into a herd, and go
after it as if to reclaim it for a runaway shaft, arriving in time to
follow it with a spear thrust before the wounded animal knew which way
to charge, Fargu thought with terror how it would be when he came to
know the temptation of the huddle-spot leopards, and the knife-clawed
lynxes, with which the forest was haunted. For the boy had been so
steeped in the sun, from childhood so saturated with his influence,
that he looked upon every danger from a sovereign height of courage.
When, therefore, he was approaching his sixteenth year, Fargu ventured
to beg Watho that she would lay her commands upon the youth himself,
and release him from responsibility for him. One might as soon hold a
tawny-maned lion as Photogen, he said. Watho called the youth, and in
the presence of Fargu laid her command upon him never to be out when
the rim of the sun should touch the horizon, accompanying the
prohibition with hints of consequences, none the less awful than they
were obscure. Photogen listened respectfully, but, knowing neither the
taste of fear nor the temptation of the night, her words were but
sounds to him.
VII. How Nycteris Grew
THE little education she intended Nycteris to have, Watho gave her by
word of mouth. Not meaning she should have light enough to read by, to
leave other reasons unmentioned, she never put a book in her hands.
Nycteris, however, saw so much better than Watho imagined, that the
light she gave her was quite sufficient, and she managed to coax Falca
into teaching her the letters, after which she taught herself to read,
and Falca now and then brought her a child's book. But her chief
pleasure was in her instrument. Her very fingers loved it and would
wander about its keys like feeding sheep. She was not unhappy. She knew
nothing of the world except the tomb in which she dwelt, and had some
pleasure in everything she did. But she desired, nevertheless,
something more or different. She did not know what it was, and the
nearest she could come to expressing it to herself was -- that she
wanted more room. Watho and Falca would go from her beyond the shine of
the lamp, and come again; therefore surely there must be more room
somewhere. As often as she was left alone, she would fall to poring
over the colored bas-reliefs on the walls. These were intended to
represent various of the powers of Nature under allegorical
similitudes, and as nothing can be made that does not belong to the
general scheme, she could not fail at least to imagine a flicker of
relationship between some of them, and thus a shadow of the reality of
things found its way to her.
There was one thing, however, which moved and taught her more than
all the rest -- the lamp, namely, that hung from the ceiling, which she
always saw alight, though she never saw the flame, only the slight
condensation towards the center of the alabaster globe. And besides the
operation of the light itself after its kind, the indefiniteness of the
globe, and the softness of the light, giving her the feeling as if her
eyes could go in and into its whiteness, were somehow also associated
with the idea of space and room. She would sit for an hour together
gazing up at the lamp, and her heart would swell as she gazed. She
would wonder what had hurt her when she found her face wet with tears,
and then would wonder how she could have been hurt without knowing it.
She never looked thus at the lamp except when she was alone.
VIII. The Lamp
WATHO, having given orders, took it for granted they were obeyed, and
that Falca was all night long with Nycteris, whose day it was. But
Falca could not get into the habit of sleeping through the day, and
would often leave her alone half the night. Then it seemed to Nycteris
that the white lamp was watching over her. As it was never permitted to
go out -- while she was awake at least -- Nycteris, except by shutting
her eyes, knew less about darkness than she did about light. Also, the
lamp being fixed high overhead, and in the center of everything, she
did not know much about shadows either. The few there were fell almost
entirely on the floor, or kept like mice about the foot of the walls.
Once, when she was thus alone, there came the noise of a far-off
rumbling: she had never before heard a sound of which she did not know
the origin, and here therefore was a new sign of something beyond these
chambers. Then came a trembling, then a shaking; the lamp dropped from
the ceiling to the floor with a great crash, and she felt as if both
her eyes were hard shut and both her hands over them. She concluded
that it was the darkness that had made the rumbling and the shaking,
and rushing into the room, had thrown down the lamp. She sat trembling.
The noise and the shaking ceased, but the light did not return. The
darkness had eaten it up!
Her lamp gone, the desire at once awoke to get out of her prison.
She scarcely knew what out meant; out of one room into another, where
there was not even a dividing door, only an open arch, was all she knew
of the world. But suddenly she remembered that she had heard Falca
speak of the lamp going out: this must be what she had meant? And if
the lamp had gone out, where had it gone? Surely where Falca went, and
like her it would come again. But she could not wait. The desire to go
out grew irresistible. She must follow her beautiful lamp! She must
find it! She must see what it was about!
Now, there was a curtain covering a recess in the wall, where some
of her toys and gymnastic things were kept; and from behind that
curtain Watho and Falca always appeared, and behind it they vanished.
How they came out of solid wall, she had not an idea, all up to the
wall was open space, and all beyond it seemed wall; but clearly the
first and only thing she could do was to feel her way behind the
curtain. It was so dark that a cat could not have caught the largest of
mice. Nycteris could see better than any cat, but now her great eyes
were not of the smallest use to her. As she went she trod upon a piece
of the broken lamp. She had never worn shoes or stockings, and the
fragment, though, being of soft alabaster, it did not cut, yet hurt her
foot. She did not know what it was, but as it had not been there before
the darkness came, she suspected that it had to do with the lamp. She
kneeled therefore, and searched with her hands, and bringing two large
pieces together, recognized the shape of the lamp. Therefore it flashed
upon her that the lamp was dead, that this brokenness was the death of
which she had read without understanding, that the darkness had killed
the lamp. What then could Falca have meant when she spoke of the lamp
going out? There was the lamp -- dead indeed, and so changed that she
would never have taken it for a lamp, but for the shape! No, it was not
the lamp anymore now it was dead, for all that made it a lamp was gone,
namely, the bright shining of it. Then it must be the shine, the light,
that had gone out! That must be what Falca meant -- and it must be
somewhere in the other place in the wall. She started afresh after it,
and groped her way to the curtain.
Now, she had never in her life tried to get out, and did not know
how; but instinctively she began to move her hands about over one of
the walls behind the curtain, half expecting them to go into it, as she
supposed Watho and Falca did. But the wall repelled her with inexorable
hardness, and she turned to the one opposite. In so doing, she set her
foot upon an ivory die, and as it met sharply the same spot the broken
alabaster had already hurt, she fell forward with her outstretched
hands against the wall. Something gave way, and she tumbled out of the
BUT alas! out was very much like in, for the same enemy, the darkness,
was here also. The next moment, however, came a great gladness -- a
firefly, which had wandered in from the garden. She saw the tiny spark
in the distance. With slow pulsing ebb and throb of light, it came
pushing itself through the air, drawing nearer and nearer, with that
motion which more resembles swimming than flying, and the light seemed
the source of its own motion.
``My lamp! my lamp!'' cried Nycteris. ``It is the shiningness of my
lamp, which the cruel darkness drove out. My good lamp has been waiting
for me here all the time! It knew I would come after it, and waited to
take me with it.''
She followed the firefly, which, like herself, was seeking the way
out. If it did not know the way, it was yet light; and, because all
light is one, any light may serve to guide to more light. If she was
mistaken in thinking it the spirit of her lamp, it was of the same
spirit as her lamp and had wings. The gold-green jet-boat, driven by
light, went throbbing before her through a long narrow passage.
Suddenly it rose higher, and the same moment Nycteris fell upon an
ascending stair. She had never seen a stair before, and found going-up
a curious sensation. Just as she reached what seemed the top, the
firefly ceased to shine, and so disappeared. She was in utter darkness
once more. But when we are following the light, even its extinction is
a guide. If the firefly had gone on shining, Nycteris would have seen
the stair turn and would have gone up to Watho's bedroom; whereas now,
feeling straight before her, she came to a latched door, which after a
good deal of trying she managed to open -- and stood in a maze of
wondering perplexity, awe, and delight. What was it? Was it outside of
her, or something taking place in her head? Before her was a very long
and very narrow passage, broken up she could not tell how, and
spreading out above and on all sides to an infinite height and breadth
and distance -- as if space itself were growing out of a trough. It was
brighter than her rooms had ever been -- brighter than if six alabaster
lamps had been burning in them. There was a quantity of strange
streaking and mottling about it, very different from the shapes on her
walls. She was in a dream of pleasant perplexity, of delightful
bewilderment. She could not tell whether she was upon her feet or
drifting about like the firefly, driven by the pulses of an inward
bliss. But she knew little as yet of her inheritance. Unconsciously,
she took one step forward from the threshold, and the girl who had been
from her very birth a troglodyte stood in the ravishing glory of a
southern night, lit by a perfect moon -- not the moon of our northern
clime, but a moon like silver glowing in a furnace -- a moon one could
see to be a globe -- not far off, a mere flat disk on the face of the
blue, but hanging down halfway, and looking as if one could see all
around it by a mere bending of the neck.
``It is my lamp,'' she said, and stood dumb with parted lips. She
looked and felt as if she had been standing there in silent ecstasy
from the beginning.
``No, it is not my lamp,'' she said after a while; ``it is the
mother of all the lamps.''
And with that she fell on her knees and spread out her hands to the
moon. She could not in the least have told what was in her mind, but
the action was in reality just a begging of the moon to be what she was
-- that precise incredible splendor hung in the far-off roof, that very
glory essential to the being of poor girls born and bred in caverns. It
was a resurrection -- nay, a birth itself, to Nycteris. What the vast
blue sky, studded with tiny sparks like the heads of diamond nails,
could be; what the moon, looking so absolutely content with light --
why, she knew less about them than you and I! but the greatest of
astronomers might envy the rapture of such a first impression at the
age of sixteen. Immeasurably imperfect it was, but false the impression
could not be, for she saw with the eyes made for seeing, and saw indeed
what many men are too wise to see.
As she knelt, something softly flapped her, embraced her, stroked
her, fondled her. She rose to her feet but saw nothing, did not know
what it was. It was likest a woman's breath. For she knew nothing of
the air even, had never breathed the still, newborn freshness of the
world. Her breath had come to her only through long passages and
spirals in the rock. Still less did she know of the air alive with
motion -- of that thrice-blessed thing, the wind of a summer night. It
was like a spiritual wine, filling her whole being with an intoxication
of purest joy. To breathe was a perfect existence. It seemed to her the
light itself she drew into her lungs. Possessed by the power of the
gorgeous night, she seemed at one and the same moment annihilated and
She was in the open passage or gallery that ran around the top of
the garden walls, between the cleft battlements, but she did not once
look down to see what lay beneath. Her soul was drawn to the vault
above her with its lamp and its endless room. At last she burst into
tears, and her heart was relieved, as the night itself is relieved by
its lightning and rain.
And now she grew thoughtful. She must hoard this splendor! What a
little ignorance her jailers had made of her! Life was a mighty bliss,
and they had scraped hers to the bare bone! They must not know that she
knew. She must hide her knowledge -- hide it even from her own eyes,
keeping it close in her bosom, content to know that she had it, even
when she could not brood on its presence, feasting her eyes with its
glory. She turned from the vision, therefore, with a sigh of utter
bliss, and with soft quiet steps and groping hands stole back into the
darkness of the rock. What was darkness or the laziness of Time's feet
to one who had seen what she had that night seen? She was lifted above
all weariness -- above all wrong.
When Falca entered, she uttered a cry of terror. But Nycteris
called to her not to be afraid, and told her how there had come a
rumbling and shaking, and the lamp had fallen. Then Falca went and told
her mistress, and within an hour a new globe hung in the place of the
old one. Nycteris thought it did not look so bright and clear as the
former, but she made no lamentation over the change; she was far too
rich to heed it. For now, prisoner as she knew herself, her heart was
full of glory and gladness; at times she had to hold herself from
jumping up, and going dancing and singing about the room. When she
slept, instead of dull dreams, she had splendid visions. There were
times, it is true, when she became restless, and impatient to look upon
her riches, but then she would reason with herself, saying, ``What does
it matter if I sit here for ages with my poor pale lamp, when out there
a lamp is burning at which ten thousand little lamps are glowing with
She never doubted she had looked upon the day and the sun, of which
she had read; and always when she read of the day and the sun, she had
the night and the moon in her mind; and when she read of the night and
the moon, she thought only of the cave and the lamp that hung there.
X. The Great Lamp
IT was some time before she had a second opportunity of going out, for
Falca since the fall of the lamp had been a little more careful, and
seldom left her for long. But one night, having a little headache,
Nycteris lay down upon her bed, and was lying with her eyes closed,
when she heard Falca come to her, and felt she was bending over her.
Disinclined to talk, she did not open her eyes, and lay quite still.
Satisfied that she was asleep, Falca left her, moving so softly that
her very caution made Nycteris open her eyes and look after her -- just
in time to see her vanish -- through a picture, as it seemed, that hung
on the wall a long way from the usual place of issue. She jumped up,
her headache forgotten, and ran in the opposite direction; got out,
groped her way to the stair, climbed, and reached the top of the wall.
-- Alas! the great room was not so light as the little one she had
left! Why? -- Sorrow of sorrows! the great lamp was gone! Had its globe
fallen? and its lovely light gone out upon great wings, a resplendent
firefly, oaring itself through a yet grander and lovelier room? She
looked down to see if it lay anywhere broken to pieces on the carpet
below; but she could not even see the carpet. But surely nothing very
dreadful could have happened -- no rumbling or shaking; for there were
all the little lamps shining brighter than before, not one of them
looking as if any unusual matter had befallen. What if each of those
little lamps was growing into a big lamp, and after being a big lamp
for a while, had to go out and grow a bigger lamp still -- out there,
beyond this out? -- Ah! here was the living thing that could not be
seen, come to her again -- bigger tonight! with such loving kisses, and
such liquid strokings of her cheeks and forehead, gently tossing her
hair, and delicately toying with it! But it ceased, and all was still.
Had it gone out? What would happen next? Perhaps the little lamps had
not to grow great lamps, but to fall one by one and go out first? --
With that came from below a sweet scent, then another, and another. Ah,
how delicious! Perhaps they were all coming to her only on their way
out after the great lamp! -- Then came the music of the river, which
she had been too absorbed in the sky to note the first time. What was
it? Alas! alas! another sweet living thing on its way out. They were
all marching slowly out in long lovely file, one after the other, each
taking its leave of her as it passed! It must be so: here were more and
more sweet sounds, following and fading! The whole of the Out was going
out again; it was all going after the great lovely lamp! She would be
left the only creature in the solitary day! Was there nobody to hang up
a new lamp for the old one, and keep the creatures from going? -- She
crept back to her rock very sad. She tried to comfort herself by saying
that anyhow there would be room out there; but as she said it she
shuddered at the thought of empty room.
When next she succeeded in getting out, a half-moon hung in the
east: a new lamp had come, she thought, and all would be well.
It would be endless to describe the phases of feeling through which
Nycteris passed, more numerous and delicate than those of a thousand
changing moons. A fresh bliss bloomed in her soul with every varying
aspect of infinite nature. Ere long she began to suspect that the new
moon was the old moon, gone out and come in again like herself; also
that, unlike herself, it wasted and grew again; that it was indeed a
live thing, subject like herself to caverns, and keepers, and
solitudes, escaping and shining when it could. Was it a prison like
hers it was shut in? and did it grow dark when the lamp left it? Where
could be the way into it? -- With that, first she began to look below,
as well as above and around her; and then first noted the tops of the
trees between her and the floor. There were palms with their
red-fingered hands full of fruit; eucalyptus trees crowded with little
boxes of powder puffs; oleanders with their half-caste roses; and
orange trees with their clouds of young silver stars and their aged
balls of gold. Her eyes could see colors invisible to ours in the
moonlight, and all these she could distinguish well, though at first
she took them for the shapes and colors of the carpet of the great
room. She longed to get down among them, now she saw they were real
creatures, but she did not know how. She went along the whole length of
the wall to the end that crossed the river, but found no way of going
down. Above the river she stopped to gaze with awe upon the rushing
water. She knew nothing of water but from what she drank and what she
bathed in; and as the moon shone on the dark, swift stream, singing
lustily as it flowed, she did not doubt the river was alive, a swift
rushing serpent of life, going -- out? -- whither? And then she
wondered if what was brought into her rooms had been killed that she
might drink it, and have her bath in it.
Once when she stepped out upon the wall, it was into the midst of a
fierce wind. The trees were all roaring. Great clouds were rushing
along the skies and tumbling over the little lamps: the great lamp had
not come yet. All was in tumult. The wind seized her garments and hair
and shook them as if it would tear them from her. What could she have
done to make the gentle creature so angry? Or was this another creature
altogether -- of the same kind, but hugely bigger, and of a very
different temper and behavior? But the whole place was angry! Or was it
that the creatures dwelling in it, the wind, and the trees, and the
clouds, and the river, had all quarreled, each with all the rest? Would
the whole come to confusion and disorder? But as she gazed wondering
and disquieted, the moon, larger than ever she had seen her, came
lifting herself above the horizon to look, broad and red, as if she,
too, were swollen with anger that she had been roused from her rest by
their noise, and compelled to hurry up to see what her children were
about, thus rioting in her absence, lest they should rack the whole
frame of things. And as she rose, the loud wind grew quieter and
scolded less fiercely, the trees grew stiller and moaned with a lower
complaint, and the clouds hunted and hurled themselves less wildly
across the sky. And as if she were pleased that her children obeyed her
very presence, the moon grew smaller as she ascended the heavenly
stair; her puffed cheeks sank, her complexion grew clearer, and a sweet
smile spread over her countenance, as peacefully she rose and rose. But
there was treason and rebellion in her court; for ere she reached the
top of her great stairs, the clouds had assembled, forgetting their
late wars, and very still they were as they laid their heads together
and conspired. Then combining, and lying silently in wait until she
came near, they threw themselves upon her and swallowed her up. Down
from the roof came spots of wet, faster and faster, and they wetted the
cheeks of Nycteris; and what could they be but the tears of the moon,
crying because her children were smothering her? Nycteris wept too and,
not knowing what to think, stole back in dismay to her room.
The next time, she came out in fear and trembling. There was the
moon still! away in the west -- poor, indeed, and old, and looking
dreadfully worn, as if all the wild beasts in the sky had been gnawing
at her -- but there she was, alive still, and able to shine!
XI. The Sunset.
KNOWING nothing of darkness, or stars, or moon, Photogen spent his
days in hunting. On a great white horse he swept over the grassy
plains, glorying in the sun, fighting the wind, and killing the
One morning, when he happened to be on the ground a little earlier
than usual, and before his attendants, he caught sight of an animal
unknown to him, stealing from a hollow into which the sunrays had not
yet reached. Like a swift shadow it sped over the grass, slinking
southward to the forest. He gave chase, noted the body of a buffalo it
had half eaten, and pursued it the harder. But with great leaps and
bounds the creature shot farther and farther ahead of him, and
vanished. Turning therefore defeated, he met Fargu, who had been
following him as fast as his horse could carry him.
``What animal was that, Fargu?'' he asked. ``How he did run!''
Fargu answered he might be a leopard, but he rather thought from
his pace and look that he was a young lion.
``What a coward he must be!'' said Photogen.
``Don't be too sure of that,'' rejoined Fargu. ``He is one of the
creatures the sun makes umcomfortable. As soon as the sun is down, he
will be brave enough.''
He had scarcely said it, when he repented; nor did he regret it the
less when he found that Photogen made no reply. But alas! said was
``Then,'' said Photogen to himself, ``that contemptible beast is
one of the terrors of sundown, of which Madame Watho spoke!''
He hunted all day, but not with his usual spirit. He did not ride
so hard, and did not kill one buffalo. Fargu to his dismay observed
also that he took every pretext for moving farther south, nearer to the
forest. But all at once, the sun now sinking in the west, he seemed to
change his mind, for he turned his horse's head and rode home so fast
that the rest could not keep him in sight. When they arrived, they
found his horse in the stable and concluded that he had gone into the
castle. But he had in truth set out again by the back of it. Crossing
the river a good way up the valley, he reascended to the ground they
had left, and just before sunset reached the skirts of the forest.
The level orb shone straight in between the bare stems, and saying
to himself he could not fail to find the beast, he rushed into the
wood. But even as he entered, he turned and looked to the west. The rim
of the red was touching the horizon, all jagged with broken hills.
``Now,'' said Photogen, ``we shall see''; but he said it in the face of
a darkness he had not proved. The moment the sun began to sink among
the spikes and saw edges, with a kind of sudden flap at his heart a
fear inexplicable laid hold of the youth; and as he had never felt
anything of the kind before, the very fear itself terrified him. As the
sun sank, it rose like the shadow of the world and grew deeper and
darker. He could not even think what it might be, so utterly did it
enfeeble him. When the last flaming scimitar edge of the sun went out
like a lamp, his horror seemed to blossom into very madness. Like the
closing lids of an eye -- for there was no twilight, and this night no
moon -- the terror and the darkness rushed together, and he knew them
for one. He was no longer the man he had known, or rather thought
himself. The courage he had had was in no sense his own -- he had only
had courage, not been courageous; it had left him, and he could
scarcely stand -- certainly not stand straight, for not one of his
joints could he make stiff or keep from trembling. He was but a spark
of the sun, in himself nothing.
The beast was behind him -- stealing upon him! He turned. All was
dark in the wood, but to his fancy the darkness here and there broke
into pairs of green eyes, and he had not the power even to raise his
bow hand from his side. In the strength of despair he strove to rouse
courage enough -- not to fight -- that he did not even desire -- but to
run. Courage to flee home was all he could ever imagine, and it would
not come. But what he had not was ignominiously given him. A cry in the
wood, half a screech, half a growl, sent him running like a
boar-wounded cur. It was not even himself that ran, it was the fear
that had come alive in his legs; he did not know that they moved. But
as he ran he grew able to run -- gained courage at least to be a
coward. The stars gave a little light. Over the grass he sped, and
nothing followed him. ``How fallen, how changed,'' from the youth who
had climbed the hill as the sun went down! A mere contempt to himself,
the self that contemned was a coward with the self it contemned! There
lay the shapeless black of a buffalo, humped upon the grass. He made a
wide circuit and swept on like a shadow driven in the wind. For the
wind had arisen, and added to his terror: it blew from behind him. He
reached the brow of the valley and shot down the steep descent like a
falling star. Instantly the whole upper country behind him arose and
pursued him! The wind came howling after him, filled with screams,
shrieks, yells, roars, laughter, and chattering, as if all the animals
of the forest were careering with it. In his ears was a trampling rush,
the thunder of the hoofs of the cattle, in career from every quarter of
the wide plains to the brow of the hill above him. He fled straight for
the castle, scarcely with breath enough to pant.
As he reached the bottom of the valley, the moon peered up over its
edge. He had never seen the moon before -- except in the daytime, when
he had taken her for a thin bright cloud. She was a fresh terror to him
-- so ghostly! so ghastly! so gruesome! -- so knowing as she looked
over the top of her garden wall upon the world outside! That was the
night itself! the darkness alive -- and after him! the horror of
horrors coming down the sky to curdle his blood and turn his brain to a
cinder! He gave a sob and made straight for the river, where it ran
between the two walls, at the bottom of the garden. He plunged in,
struggled through, clambered up the bank, and fell senseless on the
XII. The Garden
ALTHOUGH Nycteris took care not to stay out long at a time, and used
every precaution, she could hardly have escaped discovery so long had
it not been that the strange attacks to which Watho was subject had
been more frequent of late, and had at last settled into an illness
which kept her to her bed. But whether from an excess of caution or
from suspicion, Falca, having now to be much with her mistress both day
and night, took it at length into her head to fasten the door as often
as she went by her usual place of exit, so that one night, when
Nycteris pushed, she found, to her surprise and dismay, that the wall
pushed her again, and would not let her through; nor with all her
searching could she discover wherein lay the cause of the change. Then
first she felt the pressure of her prison walls, and turning, half in
despair, groped her way to the picture where she had once seen Falca
disappear. There she soon found the spot by pressing upon which the
wall yielded. It let her through into a sort of cellar, where was a
glimmer of light from a sky whose blue was paled by the moon. From the
cellar she got into a long passage, into which the moon was shining,
and came to a door. She managed to open it, and to her great joy found
herself in the other place, not on the top of the wall, however, but in
the garden she had longed to enter. Noiseless as a fluffy moth she
flitted away into the covert of the trees and shrubs, her bare feet
welcomed by the softest of carpets, which, by the very touch, her feet
knew to be alive, whence it came that it was so sweet and friendly to
them. A soft little wind was out among the trees, running now here, now
there, like a child that had got its will. She went dancing over the
grass, looking behind her at her shadow as she went. At first she had
taken it for a little black creature that made game of her, but when
she perceived that it was only where she kept the moon away, and that
every tree, however great and grand a creature, had also one of these
strange attendants, she soon learned not to mind it, and by and by it
became the source of as much amusement to her as to any kitten its
tail. It was long before she was quite at home with the trees, however.
At one time they seemed to disapprove of her; at another not even to
know she was there, and to be altogether taken up with their own
business. Suddenly, as she went from one to another of them, looking up
with awe at the murmuring mystery of their branches and leaves, she
spied one a little way off, which was very different from all the rest.
It was white, and dark, and sparkling, and spread like a palm -- a
small slender palm, without much head; and it grew very fast, and sang
as it grew. But it never grew any bigger, for just as fast as she could
see it growing, it kept falling to pieces. When she got close to it,
she discovered that it was a water tree -- made of just such water as
she washed with -- only it was alive of course, like the river -- a
different sort of water from that, doubtless, seeing the one crept
swiftly along the floor, and the other shot straight up, and fell, and
swallowed itself, and rose again. She put her feet into the marble
basin, which was the flowerpot in which it grew. It was full of real
water, living and cool -- so nice, for the night was hot!
But the flowers! ah, the flowers! she was friends with them from
the very first. What wonderful creatures they were! -- and so kind and
beautiful -- always sending out such colors and such scents -- red
scent, and white scent, and yellow scent -- for the other creatures!
The one that was invisible and everywhere took such a quantity of their
scents, and carried it away! yet they did not seem to mind. It was
their talk, to show they were alive, and not painted like those on the
walls of her rooms, and on the carpets.
She wandered along down the garden, until she reached the river.
Unable then to get any further -- for she was a little afraid, and
justly, of the swift watery serpent -- she dropped on the grassy bank,
dipped her feet in the water, and felt it running and pushing against
them. For a long time she sat thus, and her bliss seemed complete, as
she gazed at the river and watched the broken picture of the great lamp
overhead, moving up one side of the roof, to go down the other.
XIII. Something Quite New
A beautiful moth brushed across the great blue eyes of Nycteris. She
sprang to her feet to follow it -- not in the spirit of the hunter, but
of the lover. Her heart -- like every heart, if only its fallen sides
were cleared away -- was an inexhaustible fountain of love: she loved
everything she saw. But as she followed the moth, she caught sight of
something lying on the bank of the river, and not yet having learned to
be afraid of anything, ran straight to see what it was. Reaching it,
she stood amazed. Another girl like herself! But what a strange-looking
girl! -- so curiously dressed too! -- and not able to move! Was she
dead? Filled suddenly with pity, she sat down, lifted Photogen's head,
laid it on her lap, and began stroking his face. Her warm hands brought
him to himself. He opened his black eyes, out of which had gone all the
fire, and looked up with a strange sound of fear, half moan, half gasp.
But when he saw her face, he drew a deep breath and lay motionless --
gazing at her: those blue marvels above him, like a better sky, seemed
to side with courage and assuage his terror. At length, in a trembling,
awed voice, and a half whisper, he said, ``Who are you?''
``I am Nycteris,'' she answered
``You are a creature of the darkness, and love the night,'' he
said, his fear beginning to move again.
``I may be a creature of the darkness,'' she replied. ``I hardly
know what you mean. But I do not love the night. I love the day -- with
all my heart; and I sleep all the night long.''
``How can that be?'' said Photogen, rising on his elbow, but
dropping his head on her lap again the moment he saw the moon; ``-- how
can it be,'' he repeated, ``when I see your eyes there -- wide awake?''
She only smiled and stroked him, for she did not understand him,
and thought he did not know what he was saying.
``Was it a dream then?'' resumed Photogen, rubbing his eyes. But
with that his memory came clear, and he shuddered and cried, ``Oh,
horrible! horrible! to be turned all at once into a coward! a shameful,
contemptible, disgraceful coward! I am ashamed -- ashamed -- and so
frightened! It is all so frightful!''
``What is so frightful?'' asked Nycteris, with a smile like that of
a mother to her child waked from a bad dream.
``All, all,'' he answered; ``all this darkness and the roaring.''
``My dear,'' said Nycteris, ``there is no roaring. How sensitive
you must be! What you hear is only the walking of the water, and the
running about of the sweetest of all the creatures. She is invisible,
and I call her Everywhere, for she goes through all the other
creatures, and comforts them. Now she is amusing herself, and them too,
with shaking them and kissing them, and blowing in their faces. Listen:
do you call that roaring? You should hear her when she is rather angry
though! I don't know why, but she is sometimes, and then she does roar
``It is so horribly dark!'' said Photogen, who, listening while she
spoke, had satisfied himself that there was no roaring.
``Dark!'' she echoed. ``You should be in my room when an earthquake
has killed my lamp. I do not understand. How can you call this dark?
Let me see: yes, you have eyes, and big ones, bigger than Madame
Watho's or Falca's -- not so big as mine, I fancy -- only I never saw
mine. But then -- oh, yes! -- I know now what is the matter! You can't
see with them, because they are so black. Darkness can't see, of
course. Never mind: I will be your eyes, and teach you to see. Look
here -- at these lovely white things in the grass, with red sharp
points all folded together into one. Oh, I love them so! I could sit
looking at them all day, the darlings!''
Photogen looked close at the flowers, and thought he had seen
something like them before, but could not make them out. As Nycteris
had never seen an open daisy, so had he never seen a closed one.
Thus instinctively Nycteris tried to turn him away from his fear;
and the beautiful creature's strange lovely talk helped not a little to
make him forget it.
``You call it dark!'' she said again, as if she could not get rid
of the absurdity of the idea; ``why, I could count every blade of the
green hair -- I suppose it is what the books call grass -- within two
yards of me! And just look at the great lamp! It is brighter than usual
today, and I can't think why you should be frightened, or call it
As she spoke, she went on stroking his cheeks and hair, and trying
to comfort him. But oh how miserable he was! and how plainly he looked
it! He was on the point of saying that her great lamp was dreadful to
him, looking like a witch, walking in the sleep of death; but he was
not so ignorant as Nycteris, and knew even in the moonlight that she
was a woman, though he had never seen one so young or so lovely before;
and while she comforted his fear, her presence made him the more
ashamed of it. Besides, not knowing her nature, he might annoy her, and
make her leave him to his misery. He lay still therefore, hardly daring
to move: all the little life he had seemed to come from her, and if he
were to move, she might move: and if she were to leave him, he must
weep like a child.
``How did you come here?'' asked Nycteris, taking his face between
``Down the hill,'' he answered.
``Where do you sleep?'' she asked.
He signed in the direction of the house. She gave a little laugh of
``When you have learned not to be frightened, you will always be
wanting to come out with me,'' she said.
She thought with herself she would ask her presently, when she had
come to herself a little, how she had made her escape, for she must, of
course, like herself, have got out of a cave, in which Watho and Falca
had been keeping her.
``Look at the lovely colors,'' she went on, pointing to a rose
bush, on which Photogen could not see a single flower. ``They are far
more beautiful -- are they not? -- than any of the colors upon your
walls. And then they are alive, and smell so sweet!''
He wished she would not make him keep opening his eyes to look at
things he could not see; and every other moment would start and grasp
tight hold of her, as some fresh pang of terror shot into him.
``Come, come, dear!'' said Nycteris, ``you must not go on this way.
You must be a brave girl, and --''
``A girl!'' shouted Photogen, and started to his feet in wrath.
``If you were a man, I should kill you.''
``A man?'' repeated Nycteris. ``What is that? How could I be that?
We are both girls -- are we not?''
``No, I am not a girl,'' he answered; ``-- although,'' he added,
changing his tone, and casting himself on the ground at her feet, ``I
have given you too good reason to call me one.''
``Oh, I see!'' returned Nycteris. ``No, of course! -- you can't be
a girl: girls are not afraid -- without reason. I understand now: it is
because you are not a girl that you are so frightened.''
Photogen twisted and writhed upon the grass.
``No, it is not,'' he said sulkily; ``it is this horrible darkness
that creeps into me, goes all through me, into the very marrow of my
bones -- that is what makes me behave like a girl. If only the sun
``The sun! what is it?'' cried Nycteris, now in her turn conceiving
a vague fear.
Then Photogen broke into a rhapsody, in which he vainly sought to
``It is the soul, the life, the heart, the glory of the universe,''
he said. ``The worlds dance like motes in his beams. The heart of man
is strong and brave in his light, and when it departs his courage gows
from him -- goes with the sun, and he becomes such as you see me now.''
``Then that is not the sun?'' said Nycteris, thoughtfully, pointing
up to the moon.
``That!'' cried Photogen, with utter scorn. ``I know nothing about
that, except that it is ugly and horrible. At best it can be only the
ghost of a dead sun. Yes, that is it! That is what makes it look so
``No,'' said Nycteris, after a long, thoughtful pause; ``you must
be wrong there. I think the sun is the ghost of a dead moon, and that
is how he is so much more splendid as you say. -- Is there, then,
another big room, where the sun lives in the roof?''
``I do not know what you mean,'' replied Photogen. ``But you mean
to be kind, I know, though you should not call a poor fellow in the
dark a girl. If you will let me lie here, with my head in your lap, I
should like to sleep. Will you watch me, and take care of me?''
``Yes, that I will,'' answered Nycteris, forgetting all her own
So Photogen fell asleep
XIV. The Sun
THERE Nycteris sat, and there the youth lay all night long, in the
heart of the great cone-shadow of the earth, like two Pharaohs in one
Pyramid. Photogen slept, and slept; and Nycteris sat motionless lest
she should wake him, and so betray him to his fear.
The moon rode high in the blue eternity; it was a very triumph of
glorious night; the river ran babble-murmuring in deep soft syllables;
the fountain kept rushing moonward, and blossoming momently to a great
silvery flower, whose petals were forever falling like snow, but with a
continuous musical clash, into the bed of its exhaustion beneath; the
wind woke, took a run among the trees, went to sleep, and woke again;
the daisies slept on their feet at hers, but she did not know they
slept; the roses might well seem awake, for their scent filled the air,
but in truth they slept also, and the odor was that of their dreams;
the oranges hung like gold lamps in the trees, and their silvery
flowers were the souls of their yet unembodied children; the scent of
the acacia blooms filled the air like the very odor of the moon
At last, unused to the living air, and weary with sitting so still
and so long, Nycteris grew drowsy. The air began to grow cool. It was
getting near the time when she too was accustomed to sleep. She closed
her eyes just a moment, and nodded -- opened them suddenly wide, for
she had promised to watch.
In that moment a change had come. The moon had got round and was
fronting her from the west, and she saw that her face was altered, that
she had grown pale, as if she too were wan with fear, and from her
lofty place espied a coming terror. The light seemed to be dissolving
out of her; she was dying -- she was going out! And yet everything
around looked strangely clear -- clearer than ever she had seen
anything before; how could the lamp be shedding more light when she
herself had less? Ah, that was just it! See how faint she looked! It
was because the light was forsaking her, and spreading itself over the
room, that she grew so thin and pale! She was giving up everything! She
was melting away from the roof like a bit of sugar in water.
Nycteris was fast growing afraid, and sought refuge with the face
upon her lap. How beautiful the creature was! -- what to call it she
could not think, for it had been angry when she called it what Watho
called her. And, wonder upon wonders! now, even in the cold change that
was passing upon the great room, the color as of a red rose was rising
in the wan cheek. What beautiful yellow hair it was that spread over
her lap! What great huge breaths the creature took! And what were those
curious things it carried? She had seen them on her walls, she was
Thus she talked to herself while the lamp grew paler and paler, and
everything kept growing yet clearer. What could it mean? The lamp was
dying -- going out into the other place of which the creature in her
lap had spoken, to be a sun! But why were the things growing clearer
before it was yet a sun? That was the point. Was it her growing into a
sun that did it? Yes! yes! it was coming death! She knew it, for it was
coming upon her also! She felt it coming! What was she about to grow
into? Something beautiful, like the creature in her lap? It might be!
Anyhow, it must be death; for all her strength was going out of her,
while all around her was growing so light she could not bear it! She
must be blind soon! Would she be blind or dead first?
For the sun was rushing up behind her. Photogen woke, lifted his
head from her lap, and sprang to his feet. His face was one radiant
smile. His heart was full of daring -- that of the hunter who will
creep into the tiger's den. Nycteris gave a cry, covered her face with
her hands, and pressed her eyelids close. Then blindly she stretched
out her arms to Photogen, crying, ``Oh, I am so frightened! What is
this? It must be death! I don't wish to die yet. I love this room and
the old lamp. I do not want the other place. This is terrible. I want
to hide. I want to get into the sweet, soft, dark hands of all the
other creatures. Ah me! ah me!''
``What is the matter with you, girl?'' said Photogen, with the
arrogance of all male creatures until they have been taught by the
other kind. He stood looking down upon her over his bow, of which he
was examining the string. ``There is no fear of anything now, child! It
is day. The sun is all but up. Look! he will be above the brow of yon
hill in one moment more! Good-bye. Thank you for my night's lodging.
I'm off. Don't be a goose. If ever I can do anything for you -- and all
that, you know!''
``Don't leave me; oh, don't leave me!'' cried Nycteris. ``I am
dying! I am dying! I can't move. The light sucks all the strength out
of me. And oh, I am so frightened!''
But already Photogen had splashed through the river, holding high
his bow that it might not get wet. He rushed across the level and
strained up the opposing hill. Hearing no answer, Nycteris removed her
hands. Photogen had reached the top, and the same moment the sun rays
alighted upon him; the glory of the king of day crowded blazing upon
the golden-haired youth. Radiant as Apollo, he stood in mighty
strength, a flashing shape in the midst of flame. He fitted a glowing
arrow to a gleaming bow. The arrow parted with a keen musical twang of
the bowstring, and Photogen, darting after it, vanished with a shout.
Up shot Apollo himself, and from his quiver scattered astonishment and
exultation. But the brain of poor Nycteris was pierced through and
through. She fell down in utter darkness. All around her was a flaming
furnace. In despair and feebleness and agony, she crept back, feeling
her way with doubt and difficulty and enforced persistence to her cell.
When at last the friendly darkness of her chamber folded her about with
its cooling and consoling arms, she threw herself on her bed and fell
fast asleep. And there she slept on, one alive in a tomb, while
Photogen, above in the sun-glory, pursued the buffaloes on the lofty
plain, thinking not once of her where she lay dark and forsaken, whose
presence had been his refuge, her eyes and her hands his guardians
through the night. He was in his glory and his pride; and the darkness
and its disgrace had vanished for a time.
XV. The Coward Hero
But no sooner had the sun reached the noonstead, than Photogen began
to remember the past night in the shadow of that which was at hand, and
to remember it with shame. He had proved himself -- and not to himself
only, but to a girl as well -- a coward! -- one bold in the daylight,
while there was nothing to fear, but trembling like any slave when the
night arrived. There was, there must be, something unfair in it! A
spell had been cast upon him! He had eaten, he had drunk something that
did not agree with courage! In any case he had been taken unprepared!
How was he to know what the going down of the sun would be like? It was
no wonder he should have been surprised into terror, seeing it was what
it was -- in its very nature so terrible! Also, one could not see where
danger might be coming from! You might be torn in pieces, carried off,
or swallowed up, without even seeing where to strike a blow! Every
possible excuse he caught at, eager as a self-lover to lighten his
self-contempt. That day he astonished the huntsmen -- terrified them
with his reckless daring -- all to prove to himself he was no coward.
But nothing eased his shame. One thing only had hope in it -- the
resolve to encounter the dark in solemn earnest, now that he knew
something of what it was. It was nobler to meet a recognized danger
than to rush contemptuously into what seemed nothing -- nobler still to
encounter a nameless horror. He could conquer fear and wipe out
disgrace together. For a marksman and swordsman like him, he said, one
with his strength and courage, there was but danger. Defeat there was
not. He knew the darkness now, and when it came he would meet it as
fearless and cool as now he felt himself. And again he said, ``We shall
He stood under the boughs of a great beech as the sun was going
down, far away over the jagged hills: before it was half down, he was
trembling like one of the leaves behind him in the first sigh of the
night wind. The moment the last of the glowing disk vanished, he
bounded away in terror to gain the valley, and his fear grew as he ran.
Down the side of the hill, an abject creature, he went bounding and
rolling and running; fell rather than plunged into the river, and came
to himself, as before, lying on the grassy bank in the garden.
But when he opened his eyes, there were no girl-eyes looking down
into his; there were only the stars in the waste of the sunless Night
-- the awful all-enemy he had again dared, but could not encounter.
Perhaps the girl was not yet come out of the water! He would try to
sleep, for he dared not move, and perhaps when he woke he would find
his head on her lap, and the beautiful dark face, with its deep blue
eyes, bending over him. But when he woke he found his head on the
grass, and although he sprang up with all his courage, such as it was,
restored, he did not set out for the chase with such an élan as the day
before; and, despite the sun-glory in his heart and veins, his hunting
was this day less eager; he ate little, and from the first was
thoughtful even to sadness. A second time he was defeated and
disgraced! Was his courage nothing more than the play of the sunlight
on his brain? Was he a mere ball tossed between the light and the dark?
Then what a poor contemptible creature he was! But a third chance lay
before him. If he failed the third time, he dared not foreshadow what
he must then think of himself! It was bad enough now -- but then!
Alas! it went no better. The moment the sun was down, he fled as if
from a legion of devils.
Seven times in all, he tried to face the coming night in the
strength of the past day, and seven times he failed -- failed with such
increase of failure, with such a growing sense of ignominy,
overwhelming at length all the sunny hours and joining night to night,
that, what with misery, self-accusation, and loss of confidence, his
daylight courage too began to fade, and at length, from exhaustion,
from getting wet, and then lying out of doors all night, and night
after night, -- worst of all, from the consuming of the deathly fear,
and the shame of shame, his sleep forsook him, and on the seventh
morning, instead of going to the hunt, he crawled into the castle and
went to bed. The grand health, over which the witch had taken such
pains, had yielded, and in an hour or two he was moaning and crying out
XVI. An Evil Nurse
WATHO was herself ill, as I have said, and was the worse tempered; and
besides, it is a peculiarity of witches that what works in others to
sympathy works in them to repulsion. Also, Watho had a poor, helpless,
rudimentary spleen of a conscience left, just enough to make her
uncomfortable, and therefore more wicked. So, when she heard that
Photogen was ill, she was angry. Ill, indeed! after all she had done to
saturate him with the life of the system, with the solar might itself?
He was a wretched failure, the boy! And because he was her failure, she
was annoyed with him, began to dislike him, grew to hate him. She
looked on him as a painter might upon a picture, or a poet upon a poem,
which he had only succeeded in getting into an irrecoverable mess. In
the hearts of witches, love and hate lie close together, and often
tumble over each other. And whether it was that her failure with
Photogen foiled also her plans in regard to Nycteris, or that her
illness made her yet more of a devil's wife, certainly Watho now got
sick of the girl too, and hated to know her about the castle.
She was not too ill, however, to go to poor Photogen's room and
torment him. She told him she hated him like a serpent, and hissed like
one as she said it, looking very sharp in the nose and chin, and flat
in the forehead. Photogen thought she meant to kill him, and hardly
ventured to take anything brought him. She ordered every ray of light
to be shut out of his room; but by means of this he got a little used
to the darkness. She would take one of his arrows, and now tickle him
with the feather end of it, now prick him with the point till the blood
ran down. What she meant finally I cannot tell, but she brought
Photogen speedily to the determination of making his escape from the
castle: what he should do then he would think afterwards. Who could
tell but he might find his mother somewhere beyond the forest! If it
were not for the broad patches of darkness that divided day from day,
he would fear nothing!
But now, as he lay helpless in the dark, ever and anon would come
dawning through it the face of the lovely creature who on that first
awful night nursed him so sweetly: was he never to see her again? If
she was, as he had concluded, the nymph of the river, why had she not
reappeared? She might have taught him not to fear the night, for
plainly she had no fear of it herself! But then, when the day came, she
did seem frightened -- why was that, seeing there was nothing to be
afraid of then? Perhaps one so much at home in the darkness was
correspondingly afraid of the light! Then his selfish joy at the rising
of the sun, blinding him to her condition, had made him behave to her,
in ill return for her kindness, as cruelly as Watho behaved to him! How
sweet and dear and lovely she was! If there were wild beasts that came
out only at night, and were afraid of the light, why should there not
be girls too, made the same way -- who could not endure the light, as
he could not bear the darkness? If only he could find her again! Ah,
how differently he would behave to her! But alas! perhaps the sun had
killed her -- melted her -- burned her up! -- dried her up -- that was
it, if she was the nymph of the river!
XVII. Watho's Wolf
FROM that dreadful morning Nycteris had never got to be herself again.
The sudden light had been almost death to her: and now she lay in the
dark with the memory of a terrific sharpness -- a something she dared
scarcely recall, lest the very thought of it should sting her beyond
endurance. But this was as nothing to the pain which the recollection
of the rudeness of the shining creature whom she had nursed through his
fear caused her; for the moment his suffering passed over to her, and
he was free, the first use he made of his returning strength had been
to scorn her! She wondered and wondered; it was all beyond her
Before long, Watho was plotting evil against her. The witch was
like a sick child weary of his toy: she would pull her to pieces and
see how she liked it. She would set her in the sun and see her die,
like a jelly from the salt ocean cast out on a hot rock. It would be a
sight to soothe her wolf-pain. One day, therefore, a little before
noon, while Nycteris was in her deepest sleep, she had a darkened
litter brought to the door, and in that she made two of her men carry
her to the plain above. There they took her out, laid her on the grass,
and left her.
Watho watched it all from the top of her high tower, through her
telescope; and scarcely was Nycteris left, when she saw her sit up, and
the same moment cast herself down again with her face to the ground.
``She'll have a sunstroke,'' said Watho, ``and that'll be the end
Presently, tormented by a fly, a huge-humped buffalo, with great
shaggy mane, came galloping along, straight for where she lay. At the
sight of the thing on the grass, he started, swerved yards aside,
stopped dead, and then came slowly up, looking malicious. Nycteris lay
quite still and never even saw the animal.
``Now she'll be trodden to death!'' said Watho. ``That's the way
those creatures do.''
When the buffalo reached her, he sniffed at her all over and went
away; then came back and sniffed again: then all at once went off as if
a demon had him by the tail.
Next came a gnu, a more dangerous animal still, and did much the
same; then a gaunt wild boar. But no creature hurt her, and Watho was
angry with the whole creation.
At length, in the shade of her hair, the blue eyes of Nycteris
began to come to themselves a little, and the first thing they saw was
a comfort. I have told already how she knew the night daisies, each a
sharp-pointed little cone with a red tip; and once she had parted the
rays of one of them, with trembling fingers, for she was afraid she was
dreadfully rude, and perhaps was hurting it; but she did want, she said
to herself, to see what secret it carried so carefully hidden; and she
found its golden heart. But now, right under her eyes, inside the veil
of her hair, in the sweet twilight of whose blackness she could see it
perfectly, stood a daisy with its red tip opened wide into a carmine
ring, displaying its heart of gold on a platter of silver. She did not
at first recognize it as one of those cones come awake, but a moment's
notice revealed what it was. Who then could have been so cruel to the
lovely little creature as to force it open like that, and spread it
heart-bare to the terrible death-lamp? Whoever it was, it must be the
same that had thrown her out there to be burned to death in its fire.
But she had her hair, and could hang her head, and make a small sweet
night of her own about her! She tried to bend the daisy down and away
from the sun, and to make its petals hang about it like her hair, but
she could not. Alas! it was burned and dead already! She did not know
that it could not yield to her gentle force because it was drinking
life, with all the eagerness of life, from what she called the
death-lamp. Oh, how the lamp burned her!
But she went on thinking -- she did not know how; and by and by
began to reflect that, as there was no roof to the room except that in
which the great fire went rolling about, the little Red-tip must have
seen the lamp a thousand times, and must know it quite well! and it had
not killed it! Nay, thinking about farther, she began to ask the
question whether this, in which she now saw it, might not be its more
perfect condition. For not only now did the whole seem perfect, as
indeed it did before, but every part showed its own individual
perfection as well, which perfection made it capable of combining with
the rest into the higher perfection of a whole. The flower was a lamp
itself! The golden heart was the light, and the silver border was the
alabaster globe, skillfully broken, and spread wide to let out the
glory. Yes: the radiant shape was plainly its perfection! If, then, it
was the lamp which had opened it into that shape, the lamp could not be
unfriendly to it, but must be of its own kind, seeing it made it
perfect! And again, when she thought of it, there was clearly no little
resemblance between them. What if the flower then was the little
great-grandchild of the lamp and he was loving it all the time? And
what if the lamp did not mean to hurt her, only could not help it? The
red tips looked as if the flower had some time or other been hurt: what
if the lamp was making the best it could of her -- opening her out
somehow like the flower? She would bear it patiently, and see. But how
coarse the color of the grass was! Perhaps, however, her eyes not being
made for the bright lamp, she did not see them as they were! Then she
remembered how different were the eyes of the creature that was not a
girl and was afraid of the darkness! Ah, if the darkness would only
come again, all arms, friendly and soft everywhere about her! She would
wait and wait, and bear, and be patient.
She lay so still that Watho did not doubt she had fainted. She was
pretty sure she would be dead before the night came to revive her.
FIXING her telescope on the motionless form, that she might see it at
once when the morning came, Watho went down from the tower to
Photogen's room. He was much better by this time, and before she left
him, he had resolved to leave the castle that very night. The darkness
was terrible indeed, but Watho was worse than even the darkness, and he
could not escape in the day. As soon, therefore, as the house seemed
still, he tightened his belt, hung to it his hunting knife, put a flask
of wine and some bread in his pocket, and took his bow and arrows. He
got from the house and made his way at once up to the plain. But what
with his illness, the terrors of the night, and his dread of the wild
beasts, when he got to the level he could not walk a step further, and
sat down, thinking it better to die than to live. In spite of his
fears, however, sleep contrived to overcome him, and he fell at full
length on the soft grass.
He had not slept long when he woke with such a strange sense of
comfort and security that he thought the dawn at last must have
arrived. But it was dark night about him. And the sky -- no, it was not
the sky, but the blue eyes of his naiad looking down upon him! Once
more he lay with his head in her lap, and all was well, for plainly the
girl feared the darkness as little as he the day.
``Thank you,'' he said. ``You are like live armor to my heart; you
keep the fear off me. I have been very ill since then. Did you come up
out of the river when you saw me cross?''
``I don't live in the water,'' she answered. ``I live under the
pale lamp, and I die under the bright one.''
``Ah, yes! I understand now,'' he returned. ``I would not have
behaved as I did last time if I had understood; but I thought you were
mocking me; and I am so made that I cannot help being frightened at the
darkness. I beg your pardon for leaving you as I did, for, as I say, I
did not understand. Now I believe you were really frightened. Were you
``I was, indeed,'' answered Nycteris, ``and shall be again. But why
you should be, I cannot in the least understand. You must know how
gentle and sweet the darkness is, how kind and friendly, how soft and
velvety! It holds you to its bosom and loves you. A little while ago, I
lay faint and dying under your hot lamp. -- What is it you call it?''
``The sun,'' murmured Photogen. ``How I wish he would make haste!''
``Ah! do not wish that. Do not, for my sake, hurry him. I can take
care of you from the darkness, but I have no one to take care of me
from the light. -- As I was telling you, I lay dying in the sun. All at
once I drew a deep breath. A cool wind came and ran over my face. I
looked up. The torture was gone, for the death-lamp itself was gone. I
hope he does not die and grow brighter yet. My terrible headache was
all gone, and my sight was come back. I felt as if I were new made. But
I did not get up at once, for I was tired still. The grass grew cool
about me and turned soft in color. Something wet came upon it, and it
was now so pleasant to my feet that I rose and ran about. And when I
had been running about a long time, all at once I found you lying, just
as I had been lying a little while before. So I sat down beside you to
take care of you, till your life -- and my death -- should come
``How good you are, you beautiful creature! -- Why, you forgave me
before ever I asked you!'' cried Photogen.
Thus they fell a-talking, and he told her what he knew of his
history, and she told him what she knew of hers, and they agreed they
must get away from Watho as far as ever they could.
``And we must set out at once,'' said Nycteris.
``The moment the morning comes,'' returned Photogen.
``We must not wait for the morning,'' said Nycteris, ``for then I
shall not be able to move, and what would you do the next night?
Besides, Watho sees best in the daytime. Indeed, you must come now,
Photogen. -- You must.''
``I cannot; I dare not,'' said Photogen. ``I cannot move. If I but
lift my head from your lap, the very sickness of terror seizes me.''
``I shall be with you,'' said Nycteris, soothingly. ``I will take
care of you till your dreadful sun comes, and then you may leave me,
and go away as fast as you can. Only please put me in a dark place
first, if there is one to be found.''
``I will never leave you again, Nycteris,'' cried Photogen. ``Only
wait till the sun comes, and brings me back my strength, and we will go
together, and never, never part anymore.''
``No, no,'' persisted Nycteris; ``we must go now. And you must
learn to be strong in the dark as well as in the day, else you will
always be only half brave. I have begun already -- not to fight your
sun, but to try to get at peace with him, and understand what he really
is, and what he means with me -- whether to hurt me or to make the best
of me. You must do the same with my darkness.''
``But you don't know what mad animals there are away there towards
the south,'' said Photogen. ``They have huge green eyes, and they would
eat you up like a bit of celery, you beautiful creature!''
``Come, come! you must,'' said Nycteris, ``or I shall have to
pretend to leave you, to make you come. I have seen the green eyes you
speak of, and I will take care of you from them.''
``You! How can you do that? If it were day now, I could take care
of you from the worst of them. But as it is, I can't even see them for
this abominable darkness. I could not see your lovely eyes but for the
light that is in them; that lets me see straight into heaven through
them. They are windows into the very heaven beyond the sky. I believe
they are the very place where the stars are made.''
``You come then, or I shall shut them,'' said Nycteris, ``and you
shan't see them anymore till you are good. Come. If you can't see the
wild beasts, I can.''
``You can! and you ask me to come!'' cried Photogen.
``Yes,'' answered Nycteris. ``And more than that, I see them long
before they can see me, so that I am able to take care of you.''
``But how?'' persisted Photogen. ``You can't shoot with bow and
arrow, or stab with a hunting knife.''
``No, but I can keep out of the way of them all. Why, just when I
found you, I was having a game with two or three of them at once. I
see, and scent them too, long before they are near me -- long before
they can see or scent me.''
``You don't see or scent any now, do you?'' said Photogen uneasily,
rising on his elbow.
``No -- none at present. I will look,'' replied Nycteris, and
sprang to her feet.
``Oh, oh! do not leave me -- not for a moment,'' cried Photogen,
straining his eyes to keep her face in sight through the darkness.
``Be quiet, or they will hear you,'' she returned. ``The wind is
from the south, and they cannot scent us. I have found out all about
that. Ever since the dear dark came, I have been amusing myself with
them, getting every now and then just into the edge of the wind, and
letting one have a sniff of me.''
``Oh, horrible!'' cried Photogen. ``I hope you will not insist on
doing so anymore. What was the consequence?''
``Always, the very instant, he turned with dashing eyes, and
bounded towards me -- only he could not see me, you must remember. But
my eyes being so much better than his, I could see him perfectly well,
and would run away around him until I scented him, and then I knew he
could not find me anyhow. If the wind were to turn, and run the other
way now, there might be a whole army of them down upon us, leaving no
room to keep out of their way. You had better come.''
She took him by the hand. He yielded and rose, and she led him
away. But his steps were feeble, and as the night went on, he seemed
more and more ready to sink.
``Oh dear! I am so tired! and so frightened!'' he would say.
``Lean on me,'' Nycteris would return, putting her arm around him,
or patting his cheek. ``Take a few steps more. Every step away from the
castle is clear gain. Lean harder on me. I am quite strong and well
So they went on. The piercing night-eyes of Nycteris descried not a
few pairs of green ones gleaming like holes in the darkness, and many a
round she made to keep far out of their way; but she never said to
Photogen she saw them. Carefully she kept him off the uneven places,
and on the softest and smoothest of the grass, talking to him gently
all the way as they went -- of the lovely flowers and the stars -- how
comfortable the flowers looked, down in their green beds, and how happy
the stars up in their blue beds!
When the morning began to come, he began to grow better, but was
dreadfully tired with walking instead of sleeping, especially after
being so long ill. Nycteris too, what with supporting him, what with
growing fear of the light which was beginning to ooze out of the east,
was very tired. At length, both equally exhausted, neither was able to
help the other. As if by consent they stopped. Embracing each the
other, they stood in the midst of the wide grassy land, neither of them
able to move a step, each supported only by the leaning weakness of the
other, each ready to fall if the other should move. But while the one
grew weaker still, the other had begun to grow stronger. When the tide
of the night began to ebb, the tide of the day began to flow; and now
the sun was rushing to the horizon, borne upon its foaming billows. And
ever as he came, Photogen revived. At last the sun shot up into the
air, like a bird from the hand of the Father of Lights. Nycteris gave a
cry of pain and hid her face in her hands.
``Oh me!'' she sighed; ``I am so frightened! The terrible light
But the same instant, through her blindness, she heard Photogen
give a low exultant laugh, and the next felt herself caught up; she who
all night long had tended and protected him like a child was now in his
arms, borne along like a baby, with her head lying on his shoulder. But
she was the greater, for suffering more, she feared nothing.
XIX. The Werewolf
AT the very moment when Photogen caught up Nycteris, the telescope of
Watho was angrily sweeping the tableland. She swung it from her in rage
and, running to her room, shut herself up. There she anointed herself
from top to toe with a certain ointment; shook down her long red hair,
and tied it around her waist; then began to dance, whirling around and
around faster and faster, growing angrier and angrier, until she was
foaming at the mouth with fury. When Falca went looking for her, she
could not find her anywhere.
As the sun rose, the wind slowly changed and went around, until it
blew straight from the north. Photogen and Nycteris were drawing near
the edge of the forest, Photogen still carrying Nycteris, when she
moved a little on his shoulder uneasily and murmured in his ear.
``I smell a wild beast -- that way, the way the wind is coming.''
Photogen turned back towards the castle, and saw a dark speck on
the plain. As he looked, it grew larger: it was coming across the grass
with the speed of the wind. It came nearer and nearer. It looked long
and low, but that might be because it was running at a great stretch.
He set Nycteris down under a tree, in the black shadow of its bole,
strung his bow, and picked out his heaviest, longest, sharpest arrow.
Just as he set the notch on the string, he saw that the creature was a
tremendous wolf, rushing straight at him. He loosened his knife in its
sheath, drew another arrow halfway from the quiver, lest the first
should fail, and took his aim-at a good distance, to leave time for a
second chance. He shot. The arrow rose, flew straight, descended,
struck the beast, and started again into the air, doubled like a letter
V. Quickly Photogen snatched the other, shot, cast his bow from him,
and drew his knife. But the arrow was in the brute's chest, up to the
feather; it tumbled heels over head with a great thud of its back on
the earth, gave a groan, made a struggle or two, and lay stretched out
``I've killed it, Nycteris,'' cried Photogen. ``It is a great red
``Oh, thank you!'' answered Nycteris feebly from behind the tree.
``I was sure you would. I was not a bit afraid.''
Photogen went up to the wolf. It was a monster! But he was vexed
that his first arrow had behaved so badly, and was the less willing to
lose the one that had done him such good service: with a long and a
strong pull, he drew it from the brute's chest. Could he believe his
eyes? There lay -- no wolf, but Watho, with her hair tied around her
waist! The foolish witch had made herself invulnerable, as she
supposed, but had forgotten that, to torment Photogen therewith, she
had handled one of his arrows. He ran back to Nycteris and told her.
She shuddered and wept, and would not look.
XX. All Is Well
THERE was now no occasion to fly a step farther. Neither of them
feared anyone but Watho. They left her there and went back. A great
cloud came over the sun, and rain began to fall heavily, and Nycteris
was much refreshed, grew able to see a little, and with Photogen's help
walked gently over the cool wet grass.
They had not gone far before they met Fargu and the other huntsmen.
Photogen told them he had killed a great red wolf, and it was Madame
Watho. The huntsmen looked grave, but gladness shone through.
``Then,'' said Fargu, ``I will go and bury my mistress.''
But when they reached the place, they found she was already buried
-- in the maws of sundry birds and beasts which had made their
breakfast of her.
Then Fargu, overtaking them, would, very wisely, have Photogen go
to the king and tell him the whole story. But Photogen, yet wiser than
Fargu, would not set out until he had married Nycteris; ``for then,''
he said, ``the king himself can't part us; and if ever two people
couldn't do the one without the other, those two are Nycteris and I.
She has got to teach me to be a brave man in the dark, and I have got
to look after her until she can bear the heat of the sun, and he helps
her to see, instead of blinding her.''
They were married that very day. And the next day they went
together to the king and told him the whole story. But whom should they
find at the court but the father and mother of Photogen, both in high
favor with the king and queen. Aurora nearly died with joy, and told
them all how Watho had lied and made her believe her child was dead.
No one knew anything of the father or mother of Nycteris; but when
Aurora saw in the lovely girl her own azure eyes shining through night
and its clouds, it made her think strange things, and wonder how even
the wicked themselves may be a link to join together the good. Through
Watho, the mothers, who had never seen each other, had changed eyes in
The king gave them the castle and lands of Watho, and there they
lived and taught each other for many years that were not long. But
hardly had one of them passed, before Nycteris had come to love the day
best, because it was the clothing and crown of Photogen, and she saw
that the day was greater than the night, and the sun more lordly than
the moon; and Photogen had come to love the night best, because it was
the mother and home of Nycteris.
``But who knows,'' Nycteris would say to Photogen, ``that when we
go out, we shall not go into a day as much greater than your day as
your day is greater than my night?''