I stepped on to the bank. My father, following, stooped, gathered a handful of the fine granite sand, and holding it in the lantern’s light, let it run through his fingers.
“Hat off, lad! and salute your kingdom!”
“But where,” said I, “be my subjects?”
It seemed, as we formed ourselves into marching order, that I was on the point to be answered. For above the bank we came to a causeway which our lanterns plainly showed us to be man’s handiwork; and following it round the bend of a valley, where a stream sang its way down to the creek, came suddenly on a flat meadow swept by the pale light and rising to a grassy slope, where a score of whitewashed houses huddled around a tall belfry, all glimmering under the moon.
“In Corsica,” repeated my father, leading the way across the meadow, “every householder is a host.”
He halted at the base of the village street.
“It is curious, however, that the dogs have not heard us. Their barking, as a rule, is something to remember.”
He stepped up to the first house to knock. There was no door to knock upon. The building stood open, desolate. Our lanterns showed the grass growing on its threshold.
We tried the next and the next. The whole village lay dead, abandoned. We gathered in the street and shouted, raising our lanterns aloft. No voice answered us.
HOW, WITHOUT FIGHTING, OUR ARMY WASTED BY ENCHANTMENT.
“ADRIAN. The air
breathes upon us here most sweetly. . . .
GONZALO. Here is everything advantageous to life.
ANTONIO. True: save means to live.”
“CALIBAN. Be not
afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt
Upon a sudden thought my father hurried us towards the tall belfry. It rose cold and white against the moon, at the end of a nettle-grown lane. A garth of ilex-oaks surrounded it; and beside it, more than half-hidden by the untrimmed trees, stood a ridiculously squat church. By instinct, or, rather, from association of ideas learnt in England, I glanced around this churchyard for its gravestones. There were none. Yet for the second time within these few hours I was strangely reminded of home, where in an upper garret were stacked half a dozen age-begrimed paintings on panel, one of which on an idle day two years ago I had taken a fancy to scour with soap and water. The painting represented a tall man, crowned and wearing Eastern armour, with a small slave in short jacket and baggy white breeches holding a white charger in readiness; all three figures awkwardly drawn and without knowledge of anatomy. For background my scouring had brought to light a group of buildings, and among them just such a church as this, with just such a belfry. Of architecture and its different styles I knew nothing; but, comparing the church before me with what I could recollect of the painting, I recognized every detail, from the cupola, high-set upon open arches, to the round, windowless apse in which the building ended.