Thus spoke Morio amid the applause of the Elders.
“I ask that this speech be graven on bronze,” cried the monk, Bulloch. “It is spoken for the future; in fifteen hundred years the best of the Penguins will not speak otherwise.”
The Elders were still applauding when Greatauk, his hand on the pommel of his sword, made this brief declaration:
“Being noble, I shall not contribute; for to contribute is ignoble. It is for the rabble to pay.”
After this warning the Elders separated in silence.
As in Rome, a new census was taken every five years; and by this means it was observed that the population increased rapidly. Although children died in marvellous abundance and plagues and famines came with perfect regularity to devastate entire villages, new Penguins, in continually greater numbers, contributed by their private misery to the public prosperity.
During these times there lived in the island of Alca a Penguin whose arm was strong and whose mind was subtle. He was called Kraken, and had his dwelling on the Beach of Shadows whither the inhabitants never ventured for fear of serpents that lodged in the hollows of the rocks and lest they might encounter the souls of Penguins that had died without baptism. These, in appearance like livid flames, and uttering doleful groans, wandered night and day along the deserted beach. For it was generally believed, though without proof, that among the Penguins that had been changed into men at the blessed Mael’s prayer, several had not received baptism and returned after their death to lament amid the tempests. Kraken dwelt on this savage coast in an inaccessible cavern. The only way to it was through a natural tunnel a hundred feet long, the entrance of which was concealed by a thick wood. One evening as Kraken was walking through this deserted plain he happened to meet a young and charming woman Penguin. She was the one that the monk Magis had clothed with his own hands and thus was the first to have worn the garments of chastity. In remembrance of the day when the astonished crowd of Penguins had seen her moving gloriously in her robe tinted like the dawn, this maiden had received the name of Orberosia.*
* “Orb, poetically,
a globe when speaking of the heavenly
bodies. By extension any species of globular body.”—Littre
At the sight of Kraken she uttered a cry of alarm and darted forward to escape from him. But the hero seized her by the garments that floated behind, her, and addressed her in these words:
“Damsel, tell me thy name, thy family and thy country.”
But Orberosia kept looking at Kraken with alarm.
“Is it you, I see, sir,” she asked him, trembling, “or is it not rather your troubled spirit?”
She spoke in this way because the inhabitants of Alca, having no news of Kraken since he went to live on the Beach of Shadows, believed that he had died and descended among the demons of night.