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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDon Rodriguez; Chronicles Of Shadow Valley - THE TENTH CHRONICLE
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Don Rodriguez; Chronicles Of Shadow Valley - THE TENTH CHRONICLE Post by :tcant Category :Long Stories Author :Lord Dunsany Date :April 2011 Read :3334

Click below to download : Don Rodriguez; Chronicles Of Shadow Valley - THE TENTH CHRONICLE (Format : PDF)

Don Rodriguez; Chronicles Of Shadow Valley - THE TENTH CHRONICLE

THE TENTH CHRONICLE

HOW HE CAME BACK TO LOWLIGHT


"Master," Morano said. But Rodriguez rode ahead and would not
speak.

They were riding vaguely southward. They had ample provisions on
the horse that Morano led, as well as blankets, which gave them
comfort at night. That night they both got the sleep they needed,
now that there was no captive to guard. All the next day they rode
slowly in the April weather by roads that wandered among tended
fields; but a little way off from the fields there shone low hills
in the sunlight, so wild, so free of man, that Rodriguez
remembering them in later years, wondered if their wild shrubs
just hid the frontiers of fairyland.

For two days they rode by the edge of unguessable regions. Had Pan
piped there no one had marvelled, nor though fauns had scurried
past sheltering clumps of azaleas. In the twilight no tiny queens
had court within rings of toadstools: yet almost, almost they
appeared.

And on the third day all at once they came to a road they knew. It
was the road by which they had ridden when Rodriguez still had his
dream, the way from Shadow Valley to the Ebro. And so they turned
into the road they knew, as wanderers always will; and, still
without aim or plan, they faced towards Shadow Valley. And in the
evening of the day that followed that, as they looked about for a
camping-ground, there came in sight the village on the hill which
Rodriguez knew to be fifty miles from the forest: it was the
village in which they had rested the first night after leaving
Shadow Valley. They did not camp but went on to the village and
knocked at the door of the inn. Habit guides us all at times, even
kings are the slaves of it (though in their presence it takes the
prouder name of precedent); and here were two wanderers without
any plans at all; they were therefore defenceless in the grip of
habit and, seeing an inn they knew, they loitered up to it. Mine
host came again to the door. He cheerfully asked Rodriguez how he
had fared on his journey, but Rodriguez would say nothing. He
asked for lodging for himself and Morano and stabling for the
horses: he ate and slept and paid his due, and in the morning was
gone.

Whatever impulses guided Rodriguez as he rode and Morano followed,
he knew not what they were or even that there could be any. He
followed the road without hope and only travelled to change his
camping-grounds. And that night he was half-way between the
village and Shadow Valley.

Morano never spoke, for he saw that his master's disappointment
was still raw; but it pleased him to notice, as he had done all
day, that they were heading for the great forest. He cooked their
evening meal in their camp by the wayside and they both ate it in
silence. For awhile Rodriguez sat and gazed at the might-have-
beens in the camp-fire: and when these began to be hidden by white
ash he went to his blankets and slept. And Morano went quietly
about the little camp, doing all that needed to be done, with
never a word. When the horses were seen to and fed, when the
knives were cleaned, when everything was ready for the start next
morning, Morano went to his blankets and slept too. And in the
morning again they wandered on.

That evening they saw the low gold rays of the sun enchanting the
tops of a forest. It almost surprised Rodriguez, travelling
without an aim, to recognise Shadow Valley. They quickened their
slow pace and, before twilight faded, they were under the great
oaks; but the last of the twilight could not pierce the dimness of
Shadow Valley, and it seemed as if night had entered the forest
with them.

They chose a camping-ground as well as they could in the darkness
and Morano tied the horses to trees a little way off from the
camp. Then he returned to Rodriguez and tied a blanket to the
windward side of two trees to make a kind of bedroom for his
master, for they had all the blankets they needed. And when this
was done he set the emblem and banner of camps, anywhere all over
the world in any time, for he gathered sticks and branches and lit
a camp-fire. The first red flames went up and waved and proclaimed
a camp: the light made a little circle, shadows ran away to the
forest, and the circle of light on the ground and on the trees
that stood round it became for that one night home.

They heard the horses stamp as they always did in the early part
of the night; and then Morano went to give them their fodder.
Rodriguez sat and gazed into the fire, his mind as full of
thoughts as the fire was full of pictures: one by one the pictures
in the fire fell in; and all his thoughts led nowhere.

He heard Morano running back the thirty or forty yards he had gone
from the camp-fire "Master," Morano said, "the three horses are
gone."

"Gone?" said Rodriguez. There was little more to say; it was too
dark to track them and he knew that to find three horses in Shadow
Valley was a task that might take years. And after more thought
than might seem to have been needed he said; "We must go on foot."

"Have we far to go, master?" said Morano, for the first time
daring to question him since they left the cottage in Spain.

"I have nowhere to go," said Rodriguez. His head was downcast as
he sat by the fire: Morano stood and looked at him unhappily, full
of a sympathy that he found no words to express. A light wind
slipped through the branches and everything else was still. It was
some while before he lifted his head; and then he saw before him
on the other side of the fire, standing with folded arms, the man
in the brown leather jacket.

"Nowhere to go!" said he. "Who needs go anywhere from Shadow
Valley?"

Rodriguez stared at him. "But I can't stay here!" he said.

"There is no fairer forest known to man," said the other. "I know
many songs that prove it."

Rodriguez made no answer but dropped his eyes, gazing with
listless glance once more at the ground. "Come, senor," said the
man in the leather jacket. "None are unhappy in Shadow Valley."

"Who are you?" said Rodriguez. Both he and Morano were gazing
curiously at the man whom they had saved three weeks ago from the
noose.

"Your friend," answered the stranger.

"No friend can help me," said Rodriguez.

"Senor," said the stranger across the fire, still standing with
folded arms, "I remain under an obligation to no man. If you have
an enemy or love a lady, and if they dwell within a hundred miles,
either shall be before you within a week."

Rodriguez shook his head, and silence fell by the camp-fire. And
after awhile Rodriguez, who was accustomed to dismiss a subject
when it was ended, saw the stranger's eyes on him yet, still
waiting for him to say more. And those clear blue eyes seemed to
do more than wait, seemed almost to command, till they overcame
Rodriguez' will and he obeyed and said, although he could feel
each word struggling to stay unuttered, "Senor, I went to the wars
to win a castle and a piece of land thereby; and might perchance
have wed and ended my wanderings, with those of my servant here;
but the wars are over and no castle is won."

And the stranger saw by his face in the firelight, and knew from
the tones of his voice in the still night, the trouble that his
words had not expressed.

"I remain under an obligation to no man," said the stranger. "Be
at this place in four weeks' time, and you shall have a castle as
large as any that men win by war, and a goodly park thereby."

"Your castle, master!" said Morano delighted, whose only thought
up to then was as to who had got his horses. But Rodriguez only
stared: and the stranger said no more but turned on his heel. And
then Rodriguez awoke out of his silence and wonder. "But where?"
he said. "What castle?"

"That you will see," said the stranger.

"But, but how ..." said Rodriguez. What he meant was, "How can I
believe you?" but he did not put it in words.

"My word was never broken," said the other. And that is a good
boast to make, for those of us who can make it; if we need boast
at all.

"Whose word?" said Rodriguez, looking him in the eyes.

The smoke from the fire between them was thickening greyly as
though something had been cast on it. "The word," he said, "of the
King of Shadow Valley."

Rodriguez gazing through the increasing smoke saw not to the other
side. He rose and walked round the fire, but the strange man was
gone.

Rodriguez came back to his place by the fire and sat long there in
silence. Morano was bubbling over to speak, but respected his
master's silence: for Rodriguez was gazing into the deeps of the
fire seeing pictures there that were brighter than any that he had
known. They were so clear now that they seemed almost true. He saw
Serafina's face there looking full at him. He watched it long
until other pictures hid it, visions that had no meaning for
Rodriguez. And not till then he spoke. And when he spoke his face
was almost smiling.

"Well, Morano," he said, "have we come by that castle at last?"

"That man does not lie, master," he answered: and his eyes were
glittering with shrewd conviction.

"What shall we do then?" said Rodriguez.

"Let us go to some village, master," said Morano, "until the time
he said."

"What village?" Rodriguez asked.

"I know not, master," answered Morano, his face a puzzle of
innocence and wonder; and Rodriguez fell back into thought again.
And the dancing flames calmed down to a deep, quiet glow; and soon
Rodriguez stepped back a yard or two from the fire to where Morano
had prepared his bed; and, watching the fire still, and turning
over thoughts that flashed and changed as fast as the embers, he
went to wonderful dreams that were no more strange or elusive than
that valley's wonderful king.

When he spoke in the morning the camp-fire was newly lit and there
was a smell of bacon; and Morano, out of breath and puzzled, was
calling to him.

"Master," he said, "I was mistaken about those horses."

"Mistaken?" said Rodriguez.

"They were just as I left them, master, all tied to the tree with
my knots."

Rodriguez left it at that. Morano could make mistakes and the
forest was full of wonders: anything might happen. "We will ride,"
he said.

Morano's breakfast was as good as ever; and, when he had packed up
those few belongings that make a dwelling-place of any chance spot
in the wilderness, they mounted the horses, which were surely
there, and rode away through sunlight and green leaves. They rode
slow, for the branches were low over the path, and whoever canters
in a forest and closes his eyes against a branch has to consider
whether he will open them to be whipped by the next branch or
close them till he bumps his head into a tree. And it suited
Rodriguez to loiter, for he thought thus to meet the King of
Shadow Valley again or his green bowmen and learn the answers to
innumerable questions about his castle which were wandering
through his mind.

They ate and slept at noon in the forest's glittering greenness.

They passed afterwards by the old house in the wood, in which the
bowmen feasted, for they followed the track that they had taken
before. They knocked loud on the door as they passed but the house
was empty. They heard the sound of a multitude felling trees, but
whenever they approached the sound of chopping ceased. Again and
again they left the track and rode towards the sound of chopping,
and every time the chopping died away just as they drew close.
They saw many a tree half felled, but never a green bowman. And at
last they left it as one of the wonders of the forest and returned
to the track lest they lose it, for the track was more important
to them than curiosity, and evening had come and was filling the
forest with dimness, and shadows stealing across the track were
beginning to hide it away. In the distance they heard the
invisible woodmen chopping.

And then they camped again and lit their fire; and night came down
and the two wanderers slept.

The nightingale sang until he woke the cuckoo: and the cuckoo
filled the leafy air so full of his two limpid notes that the
dreams of Rodriguez heard them and went away, back over their
border to dreamland. Rodriguez awoke Morano, who lit his fire: and
soon they had struck their camp and were riding on.

By noon they saw that if they hurried on they could come to
Lowlight by nightfall. But this was not Rodriguez' plan, for he
had planned to ride into Lowlight, as he had done once before, at
the hour when Serafina sat in her balcony in the cool of the
evening, as Spanish ladies in those days sometimes did. So they
tarried long by their resting-place at noon and then rode slowly
on. And when they camped that night they were still in the forest.

"Morano," said Rodriguez over the camp-fire, "tomorrow brings me
to Lowlight."

"Aye, master," said Morano, "we shall be there tomorrow."

"That senor with whom I had a meeting there," said Rodriguez, "he ..."

"He loves me not," said Morano.

"He would surely kill you," replied Rodriguez.

Morano looked sideways at his frying-pan.

"It would therefore be better," continued Rodriguez, "that you
should stay in this camp while I give such greetings of ceremony
in Lowlight as courtesy demands."

"I will stay, master," said Morano.

Rodriguez was glad that this was settled, for he felt that to
follow his dreams of so many nights to that balconied house in
Lowlight with Morano would be no better than visiting a house
accompanied by a dog that had bitten one of the family.

"I will stay," repeated Morano. "But, master ..." The fat man's
eyes were all supplication.

"Yes?" said Rodriguez.

"Leave me your mandolin," implored Morano.

"My mandolin?" said Rodriguez.

"Master," said Morano, "that senor who likes my fat body so ill he
would kill me, he ..."

"Well?" said Rodriguez, for Morano was hesitating.

"He likes your mandolin no better, master."

Rodriguez resented a slight to his mandolin as much as a slight to
his sword, but he smiled as he looked at Morano's anxious face.

"He would kill you for your mandolin," Morano went on eagerly, "as
he would kill me for my frying-pan."

And at the mention of that frying-pan Rodriguez frowned, although
it had given him many a good meal since the night it offended in
Lowlight. And he would sooner have gone to the wars without a
sword than under the balcony of his heart's desire without a
mandolin.

So Rodriguez would hear no more of Morano's request; and soon he
left the fire and went to lie down; but Morano sighed and sat
gazing on into the embers unhappily; while thoughts plodded slow
through his mind, leading to nothing. Late that night he threw
fresh logs on the camp-fire, so that when they awoke there was
still fire in the embers And when they had eaten their breakfast
Rodriguez said farewell to Morano, saying that he had business in
Lowlight that might keep him a few days. But Morano said not
farewell then, for he would follow his master as far as the midday
halt to cook his next meal. And when noon came they were beyond
the forest.

Once more Morano cooked bacon. Then while Rodriguez slept Morano
took his cloak and did all that could be done by brushing and
smoothing to give back to it that air that it some time had,
before it had flapped upon so many winds and wrapped Rodriguez on
such various beds, and met the vicissitudes that make this story.

For the plume he could do little.

And his master awoke, late in the afternoon, and went to his horse
and gave Morano his orders. He was to go back with two of the
horses to their last camp in the forest and take with him all
their kit except one blanket and make himself comfortable there
and wait till Rodriguez came.

And then Rodriguez rode slowly away, and Morano stood gazing
mournfully and warningly at the mandolin; and the warnings were
not lost upon Rodriguez, though he would never admit that he saw
in Morano's staring eyes any wise hint that he heeded.

And Morano sighed, and went and untethered his horses; and soon he
was riding lonely back to the forest. And Rodriguez taking the
other way saw at once the towers of Lowlight.

Does my reader think that he then set spurs to his horse,
galloping towards that house about whose balcony his dreams flew
every night? No, it was far from evening; far yet from the colour
and calm in which the light with never a whisper says farewell to
Earth, but with a gesture that the horizon hides takes silent
leave of the fields on which she has danced with joy; far yet from
the hour that shone for Serafina like a great halo round her and
round her mother's house.

We cannot believe that one hour more than another shone upon
Serafina, or that the dim end of the evening was only hers: but
these are the Chronicles of Rodriguez, who of all the things that
befell him treasured most his memory of Serafina in the twilight,
and who held that this hour was hers as much as her raiment and
her balcony: such therefore it is in these chronicles.

And so he loitered, waiting for the slow sun to set: and when at
last a tint on the walls of Lowlight came with the magic of
Earth's most faery hour he rode in slowly not perhaps wholly
unwitting, for all his anxious thoughts of Serafina, that a little
air of romance from the Spring and the evening followed this
lonely rider.

From some way off he saw that balcony that had drawn him back from
the other side of the far Pyrenees. Sometimes he knew that it drew
him and mostly he knew it not; yet always that curved balcony
brought him nearer, ever since he turned from the field of the
false Don Alvidar: the balcony held him with invisible threads,
such as those with which Earth draws in the birds at evening. And
there was Serafina in her balcony.

When Rodriguez saw Serafina sitting there in the twilight, just as
he had often dreamed, he looked no more but lowered his head to
the withered rose that he carried now in his hand, the rose that
he had found by that very balcony under another moon. And, gazing
still at the rose, he rode on under the balcony, and passed it,
until his hoof-beats were heard no more in Lowlight and he and his
horse were one dim shape between the night and the twilight. And
still he held on.

He knew not yet, but only guessed, who had thrown that rose from
the balcony on the night when he slept on the dust: he knew not
who it was that he fought on the same night, and dared not guess
what that unknown hidalgo might be to Serafina. He had no claim to
more from that house, which once gave him so cold a welcome, than
thus to ride by it in silence. And he knew as he rode that the
cloak and the plume that he wore scarce seemed the same as those
that had floated by when more than a month ago he had ridden past
that balcony; and the withered rose that he carried added one more
note of autumn. And yet he hoped.

And so he rode into twilight and was hid from the sight of the
village, a worn, pathetic figure, trusting vaguely to vague powers
of good fortune that govern all men, but that favour youth.

And, sure enough, it was not yet wholly moonlight when cantering
hooves came down the road behind him. It was once more that young
hidalgo. And as soon as he drew rein beside Rodriguez both reached
out merry hands as though their former meeting had been some
errand of joy. And as Rodriguez looked him in the eyes, while the
two men leaned over clasping hands, in light still clear though
faded, he could not doubt Serafina was his sister.

"Senor," said his old enemy, "will you tarry with us, in our house
a few days, if your journey is not urgent?"

Rodriguez gasped for joy; for the messenger from Lowlight, the
certainty that here was no rival, the summons to the house of his
dreams' pilgrimage, came all together: his hand still clasped the
stranger's. Yet he answered with the due ceremony that that age
and land demanded: then they turned and rode together towards
Lowlight. And first the young men told each other their names; and
the stranger told how he dwelt with his mother and sister in the
house that Rodriguez knew, and his name was Don Alderon of the
Valley of Dawnlight. His house had dwelt in that valley since
times out of knowledge; but then the Moors had come and his
forbears had fled to Lowlight: the Moors were gone now, for which
Saint Michael and all fighting Saints be praised; but there were
certain difficulties about his right to the Valley of Dawnlight.
So they dwelt in Lowlight still.

And Rodriguez told of the war that there was beyond the Pyrenees
and how the just cause had won, but little more than that he was
able to tell, for he knew scarce more of the cause for which he
had fought than History knows of it, who chooses her incidents and
seems to forget so much. And as they talked they came to the house
with the balcony. A waning moon cast light over it that was now no
longer twilight; but was the light of wild things of the woods,
and birds of prey, and men in mountains outlawed by the King, and
magic, and mystery, and the quests of love. Serafina had left her
place: lights gleamed now in the windows. And when the door was
opened the hall seemed to Rodriguez so much less hugely hollow, so
much less full of ominous whispered echoes, that his courage rose
high as he went through it with Alderon, and they entered the room
together that they had entered together before. In the long room
beyond many candles he saw Dona Serafina and her mother rising up
to greet him. Neither the ceremonies of that age nor Rodriguez'
natural calm would have entirely concealed his emotion had not his
face been hidden as he bowed. They spoke to him; they asked him of
his travels; Rodriguez answered with effort. He saw by their
manner that Don Alderon must have explained much in his favour. He
had this time, to cheer him, a very different greeting; and yet he
felt little more at ease than when he had stood there late at
night before, with one eye bandaged and wearing only one shoe,
suspected of he knew not what brawling and violence.

It was not until Dona Mirana, the mother of Serafina, asked him to
play to them on his mandolin that Rodriguez' ease returned. He
bowed then and brought round his mandolin, which had been slung
behind him; and knew a triumphant champion was by him now, one old
in the ways of love and wise in the sorrows of man, a slender but
potent voice, well-skilled to tell what there were not words to
say; a voice unhindered by language, unlimited even by thought,
whose universal meaning was heard and understood, sometimes
perhaps by wandering spirits of light, beaten far by some evil
thought for their heavenly courses and passing close along the
coasts of Earth.

And Rodriguez played no tune he had ever known, nor any airs that
he had heard men play in lanes in Andalusia; but he told of things
that he knew not, of sadnesses that he had scarcely felt and
undreamed exaltations. It was the hour of need, and the mandolin
knew.

And when all was told that the mandolin can tell of whatever is
wistfulest in the spirit of man, a mood of merriment entered its
old curved sides and there came from its hollows a measure such as
they dance to when laughter goes over the greens in Spain. Never a
song sang Rodriguez; the mandolin said all.

And what message did Serafina receive from those notes that were
strange even to Rodriguez? Were they not stranger to her? I have
said that spirits blown far out of their course and nearing the
mundane coasts hear mortal music sometimes, and hearing
understand. And if they cannot understand those snatches of song,
all about mortal things and human needs, that are wafted rarely to
them by chance passions, how much more surely a young mortal
heart, so near Rodriguez, heard what he would say and understood
the message however strange.

When Dona Mirana and her daughter rose, exchanging their little
curtsies for the low bows of Rodriguez, and so retired for the
night, the long room seemed to Rodriguez now empty of threatening
omens. The great portraits that the moon had lit, and that had
frowned at him in the moonlight when he came here before, frowned
at him now no longer. The anger that he had known to lurk in the
darkness on pictured faces of dead generations had gone with the
gloom that it haunted: they were all passionless now in the quiet
light of the candles. He looked again at the portraits eye to eye,
remembering looks they had given him in the moonlight, and all
looked back at him with ages of apathy; and he knew that whatever
glimmer of former selves there lurks about portraits of the dead
and gone was thinking only of their own past days in years remote
from Rodriguez. Whether their anger had flashed for a moment over
the ages on that night a month from now, or whether it was only
the moonlight, he never knew. Their spirits were back now surely
amongst their own days, whence they deigned not to look on the
days that make these chronicles.

Not till then did Rodriguez admit, or even know, that he had not
eaten since his noonday meal. But now he admitted this to Don
Alderon's questions; and Don Alderon led him to another chamber
and there regaled him with all the hospitality for which that time
was famous. And when Rodriguez had eaten, Don Alderon sent for
wine, and the butler brought it in an olden flagon, dark wine of a
precious vintage: and soon the two young men were drinking
together and talking of the wickedness of the Moors. And while
they talked the night grew late and chilly and still, and the hour
came when moths are fewer and young men think of bed. Then Don
Alderon showed his guest to an upper room, a long room dim with
red hangings, and carvings in walnut and oak, which the one candle
he carried barely lit but only set queer shadows scampering. And
here he left Rodriguez, who was soon in bed, with the great red
hangings round him. And awhile he wondered at the huge silence of
the house all round him, with never a murmur, never an echo, never
a sigh; for he missed the passing of winds, branches waving, the
stirring of small beasts, birds of prey calling, and the hundred
sounds of the night; but soon through the silence came sleep.

He did not need to dream, for here in the home of Serafina he had
come to his dreams' end.

Another day shone on another scene; for the sunlight that went in
a narrow stream of gold and silver between the huge red curtains
had sent away the shadows that had stalked overnight through the
room, and had scattered the eeriness that had lurked on the far
side of furniture, and all the dimness was gone that the long red
room had harboured. And for a while Rodriguez did not know where
he was; and for a while, when he remembered, he could not believe
it true. He dressed with care, almost with fear, and preened his
small moustachios, which at last had grown again just when he
would have despaired. Then he descended, and found that he had
slept late, though the three of that ancient house were seated yet
at the table, and Serafina all dressed in white seemed to
Rodriguez to be shining in rivalry with the morning. Ah dreams and
fancies of youth!

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