The beggar passing afar turned his head and the princess straightened on her throne; he turned his head and she shivered forward on her silver seat; he looked upon her full and slow and suddenly she saw within that formless black and burning face the same soft, glad gleam of utter understanding, seen so many times before. She saw the suffering of endless years and endless love that softened it. She saw the burning passion of the sun and with it the cold, unbending duty-deeds of upper air. All she had seen and dreamed of seeing in the rising, blazing sun she saw now again and with it myriads more of human tenderness, of longing, and of love. So, then, she knew. She rose as to a dream come true, with solemn face and waiting eyes.
With her rose the king of Yonder Kingdom, almost eagerly.
“You’ll come?” he cried. “You’ll come and see my gold?” And then in sudden generosity, he added: “You’ll have a golden throne,-up there-when we marry.”
But she, looking up and on with radiant face, answered softly: “I come.”
So down and up and on they mounted,-the black beggar man and his cavalcade of Death and Pain, and then a space; and then a lone, black hound that nosed and whimpered as he ran, and then a space; and then the king of Yonder Kingdom in his robes, and then a space; and last the princess of the Hither Isles, with face set sunward and lovelight in her eyes.
And so they marched and struggled on and up through endless years and spaces and ever the black beggar looked back past death and pain toward the maid and ever the maid strove forward with lovelit eyes, but ever the great and silken shoulders of the king of Yonder Kingdom arose between the princess and the sun like a cloud of storms.
Now, finally, they neared unto the hillsides topmost shoulder and there most eagerly the king bent to the bowels of the earth and bared its golden entrails,-all green and gray and rusted-while the princess strained her pitiful eyes aloft to where the beggar, set ’twixt Death and Pain, whirled his slim back against the glory of the setting sun and stood somber in his grave majesty, enhaloed and transfigured, outstretching his long arms, and around all heaven glittered jewels in a cloth of gold.
A while the princess stood and moaned in mad amaze, then with one wilful wrench she bared the white flowers of her breast and snatching forth her own red heart held it with one hand aloft while with the other she gathered close her robe and poised herself.
The king of Yonder Kingdom looked upward quickly, curiously, still fingering the earth, and saw the offer of her bleeding heart.
“It’s a Negro!” he growled darkly; “it may not be.”
The woman quivered.
“It’s a nigger!” he repeated fiercely. “It’s neither God nor man, but a nigger!”
The princess stepped forward.
The king grasped his sword and looked north and east; he raised his sword and looked south and west.