“‘A great God, Andrew Arnold, and a pure, though His followers are few in the world as yet. But do you think that He can save you from Me, as you were asking Him to do?’
“‘He can save my soul,’ I replied, plucking up courage, who would not deny the Lord even in a devil’s den.
“‘Ah! your soul. Well, I have nothing to do with souls, except to count them as they pass through my dominion, and you are quite right to pray to one of the lords of that into which you go. Now, man, what is your business with me, and why do you visit one of whom you are so much afraid?’
“‘O Murgh!’ I began, then ceased, for I knew not what to answer.
“‘So they have told you my name? Now I will tell you one of its meanings. It is “Gate of Gods.” Why did you dare to visit Gate of the Gods? You fear to answer. Listen! You came forth to see some painted idol, or some bedizened priest muttering rites he does not understand to that which is not; and lo! you have found that which is behind all idols and all priests. You sought an incensed and a golden shrine and you have found only the black and iron portals which every man must pass but which few desire to enter until they are called. Well, you are young and strong, come try a fall with Murgh, and when he has thrown you, rise and choose which of those ways you will,’ and he swept his hand toward the doors around him. ‘Then forget this world and enter into that which you have chosen.’
“Now, because I could not help myself, I rose from my knees and advanced, or was drawn toward that dreadful man. As I came he, too, rose from his chair, stretching out his arms as a wrestler does, and I knew that within the circle of those arms lay my death. Still I, who in my youth was held brave, went on and rushed, striving to clasp him. Next moment, before ever I touched him—oh, well was it for me that I touched him not!—some strength seized me and whirled me round and round as a dead leaf is whirled by the wind, and tossed me up and cast me down and left me prone and nerveless.
“‘Rise,’ said the cold voice above me, ‘for you are unhurt.’
“So I rose and felt even then that I who thought that every bone in my body must be broken, was stronger than I had ever been before. It was as though the lamp which had burnt low was filled suddenly with a new and purer oil.
“‘Man,’ said mine adversary, and I thought that in his cold eyes there was something like a smile, ‘did you think to touch Murgh and live? Did you think to wrestle with him as in a book of one of your prophets a certain Jacob wrestled with an angel, and conquered—until it was his turn to pass the Gate of the Gods?’
“Now I stared at this dweller in Cathay, who spoke my tongue and knew the tale of Jacob in the ancient Book, then answered:
“‘Sir Murgh, or Sir Gate, or whatever your name may be, I thought to do nothing. You drew me to you, you challenged me and, since by the rule of my Order I may refuse no challenge from one who is not a Christian, I came on to do my best. But before ever I laid hand on you I was cast down by a wind. That is all the story, save that it has pleased you to let me live, who evidently could have slain me, for which I thank you.’
“‘You are wrong, Sir Andrew,’ he answered, ‘I did not draw you to me. Men come to Murgh at their appointed hour; Murgh does not come to them. You sought him before your hour, and therefore he refused you. Yet you will meet him again, as all flesh must when its hour comes, and because you are bold and have not cringed before my strength, for your comfort I will show you when and how. Stand by me, but lay no hand on me or my robe, and look into my glass while for a moment, for your sake, I stay the stream of time and show you what lies beneath its foam that blinds the eyes of men.’
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