We pitched our tents in a sheltered nook on the mountain side. We were great with glee during the day, forecasting happy holidays remote from the crowded city. But now as we sat round the camp fire at dusk silence fell upon us. What were we to do in the long evenings? I could see Willie’s jolly face on the other side of the fire trying to smother a yawn as he refilled his pipe. Bryan was watching the stars dropping into their places one by one. I turned to Robert and directed the general attention to him as a proper object for scorn. He had drawn a pamphlet on some scientific subject from his breast-pocket and was trying to read it by the flickering light.
“Did you come up to the mountains for this,” I asked, “to increase your knowledge of the Eocene age? Put it by, or—we will send it up as a burnt offering to the stars.”
“Well,” he said, looking rather ashamed, “one must do something, you know. Willie has his pipe, Bryan is holding some mysterious intercourse with the planets, and you have the fire to take care of. What is one to do?”
This went to the root of the matter. I pondered over it awhile, until an idea struck me.
“There is Bryan. Let him tell us a story. He was flung into life with a bundle of old legends. He knows all mystery and enchantment since the days of the Rishees, and has imagined more behind them. He has tales of a thousand incarnations hidden away in secretness. He believes that everything that happened lives still in the memory of Nature, and that he can call up out of the cycles of the past heroic figures and forgotten history, simply by his will, as a magician draws the elemental hordes together.”
“Have a dragon and a princess in it,” said Willie, settling himself into an attitude of listening.
“Or authentic information about Eocene man,” suggested Robert.
“I could not tell a story that way,” said Bryan simply. “I could never invent a story, though all the characters, heroes and princess, were to come and sit beside me so that I could describe them as they really were. My stories come like living creatures into my mind; and I can only tell them as they tell themselves to me. Today, as I lay in the sunlight with closed eyes, I saw a haze of golden light, then twilight trees appeared and moving figures and voices speaking; it shaped itself into what is hardly a story, but only an evening in some legendary existence.”
We waited while Bryan tried to recall his misty figures. We were already in sympathy with his phantasmal world, for the valleys below us were dim-coloured and quiet, and we heard but rarely and far away the noises of the village; the creatures of the mountain moved about in secretness, seeking their own peculiar joys in stillness amid dews and darkness. After a little Bryan began.