Now, feeling overwhelmed for the second time that night, Grey Dick sat himself down upon a quay post. It was clear to him that to argue with this person in a yellow cap who talked Suffolk so well was quite useless. Why, then, waste breath which was probably his last?
Everybody seemed to be falling into meditation again, when the Man, shifting his head slowly, began to consider Hugh.
“What is your name and which is your country, O my second saviour?” he asked, still speaking in English. Only now the English was of a different and more refined sort to that which he had used when he addressed Dick; such English, for instance, as came from the lips of Sir Geoffrey Carleon or from those of the lords of Edward’s Court.
“I am Sir Hugh de Cressi of Dunwich, in the county of Suffolk, in England,” answered Hugh slowly.
“England. I have heard of England, and Dunwich; I have heard of Dunwich. Indeed, I travel thither, having an appointment with an old friend in that town.”
Now a light came into Hugh’s bewildered face, but he said nothing.
“I seem to have touched some chord of recollection in your mind, O my saviour of Dunwich,” said the Man. “Look at me and tell me, who am I?”
Hugh looked, and shook his head.
“I never saw you before, nor any one at all like you,” he answered.
“No, no; you never saw me, though I have been very near to you once or twice. Yet, your pardon, look again.”
Hugh obeyed, and this time, for a second only, perceived that the Man’s head was surrounded by a multitude of doves. Two endless lines of doves, one line black and the other line white, stretched from his right shoulder and from his left shoulder, till miles away they melted into the lofty gloom of the sky that was full of the soughing sound of their wings.
Now he knew, and for the first time in his life fell upon his knees to a man, or to what bore the semblance of man.
“You are named Murgh, Gate of the Gods,” he said. “Murgh, whom old Sir Andrew saw in that courtyard over which the iron dragons watch in the country called Cathay, that courtyard with the pool of water and the many doors.”
“Ay,” answered the Man in a new voice, a great voice that seemed to fill the air like the mutter of distant thunder. “I am Murgh, Gateway of the Gods, and since you have striven to defend Murgh, he who is the friend of all men, although they know it not, will above all be your friend and the friend of those you love.”
He stretched out his long arms and laid his white-gloved hands for an instant, one of them upon Hugh’s head and one on the shoulder of Grey Dick, who sat upon the pillar of stone.
Hugh muttered, “I thank you,” not knowing what else to say. But in his heart he wondered what kind of friendship this mighty and awful being would show to him and his. Perhaps he might hold that the truest kindness would be to remove him and them from the miseries of a sinful world.
If Murgh read his thoughts he only answered them with that smile of his cold eyes which was more awful than the frown of any mortal man. Turning his head slowly he began to contemplate Dick sitting on his stone.
“If I had a son,” he said, “by that face of yours you might be he.”
“Perchance,” answered Dick, “since I never knew for certain who my father was. Only I have always heard that Life begets, not Death.”
“Death! You honour me with a great name. Well, life and death are one, and you and I are one with the moon and the stars above us, and many other things and beings that you cannot see. Therefore the begetter and the begotten are one in the Hand that holds them all.”
“Ay,” answered Dick, “and so my bow and I are one: I’ve often thought it. Only you nearly made me one with my own arrow, which is closer kinship than I seek,” and he touched the cut upon his chin. “Since you are so wise, my father, or my son, tell me, what is this Hand that holds them all?”
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