“And The Price?” asked the Pilgrim; “It was so great a price. Why?”
Thyself answered: “Found you no bones in the Desert? Found you no graves by the way?”
The other replied: “I saw the Desert white with bones—I found the way set among many graves.”
“And the hands of the dead?”—asked Thyself, in that voice so like the wind that stirred the leaves of the forest—“And the hands of the dead?”
And the Pilgrim answered now with understanding: “The hands of the dead held fast to their treasures—held fast to their Wealth of Traditions, to their Holy Prejudices, to the Sacred Opinions, Customs, Favors and Honors of Men.”
Then Thyself, the appointed Keeper of the Temple of Truth, went quietly aside from the path. With slow and reverent step, with bowed uncovered head, the Pilgrim crossed the threshold and through the high arched doorway entered the sacred corridors.
But within the Temple, before approaching the altar with his offering, the Pilgrim was constrained to retire to The Quiet Room, there to spend the hours until a new day in prayerful meditation. It was there that this Tale of The Uncrowned King came to him—came to him at the end of his long pilgrimage across the Desert of Facts—came to him after he had paid The Price, after he had fulfilled The Law, after he had asked of Thyself, the Keeper of the Temple, “Why?”
There, in The Quiet Room in the Temple of Truth on the Outer-Edge-Of-Things, the Voices to the Pilgrim told this Tale of The Uncrowned King.
* * * * *
[Illustration: And the First Voice was the Voice of the Waves (see king004.png)]
It was nearing the fall of day when first the Pilgrim laid himself to meditate upon his couch in The Quiet Room.
Without the Temple, the tall trees rustled softly their glossy leaves and over the flower-figured carpet of green the sunlight and shadow fairies danced along the lanes of gold. High in the blue above, the fairy cloud-fleets were drifting—drifting—idly floating. Over the Beautiful Sea, the glad wave fairies ran one after the other from beyond the far horizon to the sandy shore.
In The Quiet Room where the Pilgrim lay, it was very, very, still. Only the liquid music of the waves came through the open window—came to the Pilgrim clearer and sweeter than the sweetest notes from clear toned bells.
And after a little there was in the music of the waves a Voice.
Said the Voice: “To thee, O Hadji, I come from the Beautiful Sea; the interminable, unfathomable sea, that begins at the Outer-Edge-Of-Things and stretches away into Neverness. I speak from out the Deeps Beneath. I tell of the Great That Is. I am a Voice of Life, O Hadji, and mine it is to begin for you The Tale of The Uncrowned King.”