But, for ourselves, in that forlorn and hag-ridden figure we more naturally see a symbol of the generations that slay the slayer and shall themselves be slain. It is thus that each generation comes knocking at the door—comes, rather, so suddenly and unannounced, clutching at the Tree of Life, and with the glittering sword of youth beating down its worn-out defenders. New blood, new thoughts and hopes each generation brings to resuscitate the genius of fertility and growth. Often it longs imperiously to summon a stalwart ruffian, who will finish off decrepitude and make an end; but hardly has the younger generation itself assumed the office and taken its stand as the Warder of the Tree, when its life and hopes in turn are threatened, and among the ambuscading woods it hears a footstep coming and sees the gleam of a drawn sword. Let us not think too precisely on such events. But rather let us climb the toilsome track up to the little town, where Cicero once waited to meet the assassin Brutus after the murder of the world’s greatest man; and there, in the ancient inn still called “Diana’s Looking-glass” from the old name of the beautiful and mysterious lake which lies in profoundly mingled green and indigo below it, let us forget impending doom over a twopenny quart of wine and a plate of little cuttlefish stewed in garlic, after which any priest might confront his successor with equanimity.
THE UNDERWORLD OF TIME
Sometimes, for a moment, the curtain of the past is rolled up, the seven seals of its book are loosened, and we are allowed to know more of the history than the round number of soldiers with which a general crossed a river, or the succession that brought one crazy voluptuary to follow another upon the Imperial throne. We do not refuse gratitude for what we ordinarily receive. To the general it made all the difference whether he had a thousand soldiers more or less, and to us it makes some. To the Imperial maniac it was of consequence that his predecessor in the government of civilised mankind was slain before him, and for us the information counts for something, too; just as one meets travellers who satisfy an artistic craving by enumerating the columns of a ruined shrine, and seeing that they agree with the guidebook. But it is not often that historians tell us what we really