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ceiling V excepting, of course, the windows, which, now it being night, were draped with crimson satin. Thus much I observed; but the other wonders, — the statues, the tall vases of glass, banded and twisted of various colors, the great picture of the proud Cimabue, of Michael slaying the Dragon, — many other things I hurried by, or only had I linn shown to me by my two guides, lest I should miss my counting. The floor was covered with the richest cloths."
The King's fool had assumed, at the beginning of the story, a look of respectful attention, which by degrees he had developed into a look of deep wonder, which now had become an expression of the most dumbfounded astonishment caricatured to the uttermost. Of course every one had been watching, knowing that he would be doing something soon, and at this point young Percy the page found that he could not help it any longer, and giggled. The spark had fallen on gunpowder. The whole of the party burst into such a roar of laughter at once, that the people down the table looked towards the royal chair. The King was very angry, but when he saw the fool's face, he was forced to grin.
"Pr'ythec, gossip," said the fool to Sir Henry, "pass on and come to the dragons."
"There be no dragons, fool."
"Marry, thou shouldst have had dragons. Thou art a poor jongleur. Thou wilt mar the tale without a dragon or two. I pray let us have them."
"Wilt thou peace, thou ape ?" said the King, angrily; and Sir Henry went on.
"The floors were covered with the richest fabrics, and the galleries were grander than anything your Majesty can fancy, and yet the banquetting-hall infinitely surpassed the galleries in beauty. My tongue fails to describe the richness of the plate, and still more the wondrous splendor of the flowers which cove-red the supper-table in great profus.on, and all of which were utterly unknown to me, as they were from roots and seeds which Signor Nicolo had procured from the uttermost limits of the East.
"They tarried for me, it appeared, and, after their form of politeness, came forward in a body to greet me, each presenting himself by name. I prayed their forgiveness. They, on their part, abused themselves before me for having assembled too soon. All were Venetians, sire, except myself, and a Genoese prisoner, to whom these true gentlemen gave the precedence, as a prisoner of war, before every one else, myself included. He insisted on waiving his claim in my favor, and so I sat on the left of Signor Mathio, and he below me. The conversation, as supper went on, was mainly addressed to us two, and I supposed at first it was only politeness; but after a little conversation with me, the Genoese prisoner raised his forefinger slightly, and the conversation became general, Signor Mathio even turning from us and talking to the infirm Signor Nicolo, nis brother. I began to see, sire (otherwise 1 had been a poor ambassador to your Majesty), that there was a plot, a good-natured plot abroad, and that I was to act in it.
"I now turned and looked at my fellow-conspirator, the Genoese gentleman prisoner. He was a young gentleman of singular beauty, and dressed with extreme richness and elegance. His manners were as charming as his appearance.
"' Dear English signor,' he said, as soon as the others were talking freely, 'I want your help. Let us drink together
"We did so. 'There is a play, a plot, a conspiracy to be acted here, and you must play the principal part in it. Do you consent?'
'"The players in mysteries have their written parts given them,' I said, 'and even the mummers rehearse their nonsense in a dark barn. I consent, but I must know my part."
'"It is only this. When I nudge you, — so,— speak out to Signor Nicolo, and ask him to show you his magic amulet. When he has handed it to you, pass it to me, instead of giving it to him.'
'"Is that all I have to do?'
"' That is all. You were late for supper, and I was waiting to explain more to you. We are too close to the old man to explain now.'
"' Can you explain nothing, sweet sir?'
"'I fear being overheard, but I will say thus much. Signor Mathio is talking loud to his brother. Signor Nicolo is infirm, and any agitation will make his heart beat dangerously. The leeches dread his death in case of any news being conveyed to him suddenly. Now a most unexpected and joyful event has occurred, and we wish to break it to him. The only thing which will make the old man speak of his son is that talisman. He never speaks of his son but when he is telling the story of that talisman, and we want him to tell it to-night. It is our only chance of breaking the glorious news to him without killing him.'
"I understood him now, and grasped him by the arm. 'Do you mean to say that he is free?' I asked.
"' Sweet sir, he is in Venice. You did not catch my name, as I saw, when I introduced myself."
"' Who are you, dear gentleman?'
"' I am Giovanni Doria, and he is exchanged for me.'
"I brought my hand heavily down upon the table, and as I committed that breach of good manners, I perceived that the Venetian gentlemen who were supping with us had for once in a way, in their eagerness, forgotten theirs. I saw in a moment that every man in the room was in the plot, for they had all ceased talking and were looking eagerly at me and Doria. I smiled, so as to show them that I was in their secret, and the general conversation buzzed up louder than before.
"But the sudden silence, and the smiting of my fist upon the table, had aroused Signor Nicolo, and lie turned and spoke to me. 'Has anything irritated you, my English friend?' he said. 'Dona is a sacred person, but if it were any other, I will answer for it in my own body, my boy being away, old as I am.'
"No one has irritated me, dear sir," I said. 'Only the spiders spun a cobweb between me and my goblet, and in breaking it through I hit the table."
"The old man was puzzled, but contented. Doria laughed at me.
"' It was not so bad,' he said; 'but your English humor will never stand comparison with our Italian wit. I should have said I was contented to think that I should never have words to make our poor islanders believe in the splendor of the Venetian merchants, and in my vexation at that thought I committed this breach of manners.'
"' That would have been rather clumsier, and much more untrue than the explanation which I gave,' I answered. 'Let be: he believes neither the one nor the other. Let us talk sense. Why did you select me for your fellow-conspirator on this most joyful occasion?'
"' For the first reason,' he answered, 'because he is very jealous of showing his talisman to any one but foreigners, and he never shows it twice to any man; and, as I told you before, never speaks of his son unless he shows it. I have seen it once, and you were the only available foreigner. That is the first reason. For the second, we felt sure that you would come kindly into the plot. Your gentle demeanor, and your beautiful and amiable face —'
At this point the King's fool was taken with an obstinate fit of coughing. The King looked up. "Sir Hubert Venables," he said, "Sweet friend, smite me my poor fool upon the back, I pray thee."
"He hath a cough, and the phlegm will kill him. I should be wood were my poor fool to die."
Sir Hubert, nineteen stone of strength and goodhumor, moved towards the fool: but the fool was not fool enough to bide a slap from that terrible hand. He dived under the table and passed below the salt, where he revenged himself by telling a story very like Sir Henry's, but with a few utterly incredible incidents, caricaturing that most excellent old pedant's voice and manner in a way which made necessary the presence of the seneschal, a herald, and lastly the order of royalty itself, to silence the uproarious laughter.
"Twenty years ago, Sir Fool, I was handsomer than any man in this room, except, of course, your Majesty."
"Exactly," said the King. "Now go on."
"It was, it appeared," continued Sir Henry, "to take my opportunity to ask for Signor Nicolo's amulet, and to request him to tell me the story about it. To lead up to this result, Giovanni Doria left off speaking to me, and left me sitting silent. It was a long time before the dulled faculties of Signor Nicolo took notice of this. The main part of the supper had been cleared away, and nothing had been left on the table for some time but the fruits and the wine, but yet I sat still and silent, acting my part the best way I could.
"Signor Mathio was not in the secret, and he and his brother remained talking very eagerly together. The general buzz of conversation which went on along each side of the table made them think, I suppose, that their guests were well entertained, and that they might speak together without breach of manners. At last, Mathio, who sat next to me, turned and saw me silent, and saw also that Doria was deeply engaged in conversation with the man beside him. He instantly nudged his brother, and said,' Nicole, we are poor hosts. I thought, Signor Mallory, you were in talk with Signor Doria.'
"' I have been silent this half-hour,' I said, 'I have not spoken to a soul since Signor Doria entered into talk with yon Florentine gentleman.'
"They used great civility towards me at once, these two old gentlemen, asking my pardon many times. But I answered that I had been well entertained looking at the admirable beauty of their riches; but I said I had a favor to ask. If they thought they had erred in any way in courtesy to me, the granting of that favor would throw the balance of debt on my side. I asked, would Signor Nicolo show me the great talisman, and tell me the story about it.
"He willingly acquiesced. He put back the collar of his dark-blue velvet and gold gown, and took from his neck, from underneath his clothes, the chain on which the talisman hung, and handed it to me. Your Majesty, it took away my breath. In
my wonder and excitement, I dropped the whole thing rattling into my plate, to the great amusement of the brothers; but none of the other gentlemen at table took notice of the rattle, but only talked the louder, almost as though they were brawling.
"The chain on which the talisman hung was the handsomest and the thickest I have ever seen; but it was the talisman itself which struck me with such amazement. It was an oblong sapphire, close on three inches in length, which was attached to the chain by the slender thread of gold which went round it, and which could scarcely be called a setting. It was a water-worn sapphire, having over nearly the whole of its surface a frosted pale-blue color; in one place only had it been touched by the jeweller's wheel. On one side only of it, a space of some half an inch, had been cut flat and polished, and through this shining surface you could look down into the wine-dark depths of the greatest jewel which the world has ever seen."
"This is a good tale," said the King, "a wondrous good tale. I like much these great jewels in a tale. They cost the teller nothing, and the hearer feels as though they belonged to him, or, at least, that he had seen them. Give nic jewels in a tale. They are better than dragons."
"But this is every word of it true, your Majesty," said Sir Henry.
"Did ever any one assure thee of being able to invent a tale for thyself? Thou hast no talent that way. My grandsire sent no minstrels or jongleurs on his errands. That diamond on thy finger would show that these Venetians have jewels such as we have never seen. The story is a good story, but the worse for being true. Canst thou not invent aught? Go on."
"I asked him, then,"continued Sir Henry, "his tale about this jewel, and he told it to me. I will pass by that tale, and come to the end of mine."
"At thy peril," said the King. "It may be a better tale than thine own for aught I know. Tell it."
Sir Henry Mullory put his hands slightly abroad, and bowed his head gently, as though he would say, "If you choose to be bored, it is not my fault," and after this courtier-like protest, went on to tell Signor Nicolo's story.
"' It is a mistake to suppose, dear Englishman,' said Signor Nicolo, 'that my friend, Kublai Khan, was the son of his predecessor, Hanlu. On the contrary, he was his youngest nephew.
"' Mangu was son of Sheri Khan, and was left young with an only sister, to whom he was deeply attached; gave her in marriage to the Emperor of India, Conon the First, and took his, the Emperor's, sister, as his bride in exchange.
"' He had never seen this lady until she arrived at Campion, the day before their nuptials. Mangu became deeply in love with her, and from all I could gather from those old men, who in my time were still about the court of Kublai Khan, and who remembered her, there was no wonder at it. She was a most peerless body. But beauty does not save from death, and before they had been married seven months this beautiful lady died.
"' Mangu was inconsolable. He made a vow before the small household idol, an idol which corresponds among the Tartars to the Lares or Penates of the Romans, Signor Mullory, that he would never look on the face of woman again. He kept his vow religiously, as religiously as any of our churchmen, with the hope of immortality before them, keep it
he was a heathen, and had no such hopes; but he kept his Tow, and he died without issue.
"■When he felt death was creeping on him he began to feel anxious about his successors. The wife of Conon, the elder King of India, had now three beautiful sons, Ganlu, Camul, and Kublai. Mangu wrote a letter to Conon, begging that in brotherly lore be would send him his three youths, and that be would give him the one he should choose to fill the throne of Tartary.
"' The King Conon wrote, saying, ' Choose between them'; and the three princes were started on their journey with the greatest magnificence. What need to dwell on the elephants and the camels, the horse, the rich presents which were sent? Read any Eastern tale, Sir Henry, and fill up the gap according to your own imagination.
"' The great procession which accompanied these three princes took a year in reaching Mangu'g capital. Many delays took place from flooded rivers, from snow-storms, and other accidents of travel, such as I have related to my friends in this hall in recounting my own travels until my tongue has grown weary. Many lives were lost, the camels mat of them died, but the elephants and the horses arrived, towards the end of the year, within a day's walk of the capital of Mangu. There, for the first time, they met with his emissaries. Hitherto, since coming into the dominions of the Khan, they had had no credentials save the golden plate which he had sent with his ambassador. This had been enough: the mere showing of it had been sufficient for each governor of every province through which they had passed. The whole resources of each province had been put at their disposal, but they hiil hitherto had no personal recognition. At this point, with the towers of the capital in sight, they were met by ten thousand cavalry on white horses, each common man clothed in cloth of silver and blue velvet, and the officers clothed in cloth of gold ana crimson satin.
"Beat me that fool," cried the King, in extreme anger. "Bang me that fool on his pate, with a flagon. Cut me his ears. Percy, spawn of the Devil, why laughest thou? Can I not hear my tale without this indecent laughter V It comes from the ineoyable babil of that fool there. What said he, Percy? I will know by — (go to Chaucer for an oath). Speak, sir."
"He said only," replied that mischievous young rascal. Percy, who ought to have been a midshipman, by the by, and who was very much frightened at the King's manner, — "he said only that this Signer Nicolo of Venice was a better story-teller than Sir Henry Mullory: that we should have dragons anon now, and mayhap, some unicorns and a phoenix if we gave Sir Henry time."
"Turn the fool out," cried the King; and the fool went out by one door, ran down the lower ward to the curfew tower with a face of dismay, told a drunken old warder that the castle was on fire, and persuaded him to ring the alarm bell, aroused all the townsfolk of Windsor, who came swarming into the middle ward to render assistance; and long be5.Te Sir Henry's story was finished stepped back again by a door behind the dais, and, with a sanctimonious air, quietly took a chair behind the King, beside his confessor, as he did so passing his finger three or four times round the crown of his head in an impertinent allusion to the reverend gentleman's tonsure. "The three princes," continued Sir Henry," were
met by this splendid cavalcade, the commander of which, clothed in —"
"Let that pass," said the King. "Let us have no more tailors' bills, sweet Sir Henry."
"— told them that they were to be conducted into the town the next morning in the greatest state, but that Mangu Khan desired that they would house where they were for the night. The apartments set aside for them were very homely, after what they had been accustomed to in India, but they all three acquiesced with a good grace.
"At twelve o'clock that night," said Signor Mathio, " Ganlu, the oldest prince, sitting alone in his room, among his books, heard a knock at his door. His servant, timidly appearing, announced that an old priest would speak to him.
"' A Nestorian, I doubt, or a Mohammedan,' said Ganlu, looking up from his books.
"' A priest of our own faith,' said the servant.
"The priest was shown in, humbly dressed, but a noble-looking old man.
"' What wouldst thou, my father 1' said Prince Ganlu.
"' I have here a talisman,' said the priest (showing him the talisman which you hold in your hand, Signor Mallory), which will enable you to win the love of your uncle, and to succeed to the throne of Tartary. I would know what you would offer me for it.'
"' Dost thou believe, dear father,' said Ganlu,' in commandment xc.?'
"' Not I,' said the old priest.
"' Dost thou then believe,' retorted Ganlu, 'that any man can come to salvation, save through our faith ? *
"' I most certainly believe it,' said the old priest 'But what wilt thou give me for my talisman?'
"' The curse of Kehama * fall on thee and thy talisman, thou heretic! Depart!'
"So he departed from the prig Ganlu, and went on to the drunkard, Camul. Camul had not only gotten himself disguised in liquor, but his servants also. The old priest found them all uproarious, and was hustled in before the presence of the Prince by a dozen grooms and courtesans, somewhat more drunk than the Prince himself, who was drunk enough. He delivered his message.
"'I bring you here a talisman which shall secure your succession to the throne of Tartary. What will you give me for it?'
"' Sit down and drink, you old fool,' cried Prince Camul. 'Make me this old fool drunk, you fellows,' cried Camul. 'We will bargain afterwards.'
"But the old fellow escaped them, and went to the lodgings of Kublai, to see what mart he could get there for his talisman.
"The whole building was wrapped in darkness; but the old man passed quietly in, picking his way through the sleeping attendants by the light of a few dim lamps, which were still left burning, until he came to the chamber of the sleeping Kublai, whom he shook by the shoulder, saying once more,' Prince,
• "I say!" (Printer's devil). "Not at all. The limits of his. torical fiction are not yet fixed. How about the dates in Kenilworth? where Shakespeare, at twelve years old, is asked if he has written any more plays; and where Amy Bohsart, eleven years after the famous coroner's inquest on her, pathetically states her case to Queen Elizabeth. No ; let us make hay while the sun shines. Good old Pettigrew is dead, and the Saturday Review don't notice small papers of this kind. Let us have our fling with our betters. And for that matter, writers of historical fiction, getting carefully their dates from the best authorities, seem on the whole to come out of the fight better than the writers of history themselves." — H. K.
arise! I have here a talisman which shall give thee the Khanate of Tartary.'
"' May the great fiend seize the Khanate of Tartary 1 I had as lief you made me whipster to the madmen in India. Avaunt!'
"' Yet, see my talisman.'
"' Thou and thy talisman! Thou prating old knave, is there not a time for all things; and is not this the time for sleep? H.irow! Wala 1 there 1 Push me forth this old fool; yet use him gently, youths. If the gods bless you, your curls will some day be gray and thin as his locks are now. Good night, thou foolish old person. Here is money for thee'
"The old priest was gently and kindly pushed out by the young warriors in attendance, and disappeared. The next day the cavalcade moved on into the town, and at the palace the three youths were brought into the great hall of council, and among fifteen hundred warriors, sitting in all his awful magnificence, was Mangu, mightiest sovereign of the earth, great-grandson of the mightier Ginghis.
"And when they saw that he was none other than the old priest, their hearts failed them. Here was a to-do indeed! The eldest had consigned him to condemnation as a heretic; the second had insulted him, and had wanted to make him drunk; and the third hail called him an old fool and turned him out of the house. India was a year's journey away. Was there no hope? They looked round; the serried ranks had closed in on all sides, and the infuriated Khan had descended from the throne and was advancing towards them.
"' Face it out like men,' Kublai had time to say, when the Khan was upon them. He smiled sweets ly to them and held out his hands. 'I see three pairs of my sweet sister's eyes,' he said; 'Ganlu, thou art scholarly and wise. Camul, thou art a merry companion. You two shall stay with us a time, and carry presents back to our brother. Kublai, you know that there is a time and a season for all things. You know the reverence due to gray hairs; you go home no more. Henceforth thou art Khan of Tartary.'"
"And immediately he had spoken these words," continued the fool, behind Sir Henry Mullory, with the most perfectly absurd imitation of his voice and manner, " four thousand three hundred and seventysix golden trumpets began to play, each one a different tune, and played until dark, so that the day was spent in harmony. This Cublcy Khan, your Grace, and my very sweet and gentle masters all" (here came a grin and a bow even more ridiculously like Sir Henry's than the voice in which the fool spoke), "was own brother to Cublcy, the bear warden of Soutliwark, who last year, coming home disguised in drink, was refused entry by his wife, and went me to bed with his bears; since when naught has been seen of him. Gallant and noble knights, this is all my tale."
"'T is a merry fool," said the King, laughing; "you must forgive him, Sir Henry."
"I will when I have done laughing at the knave," said Sir Henry, good-humoredly. "Now I come to the more serious part of my story."
"Now hath Sir Henry finished fooling, and beginneth to be serious," shouted the fool with the voice of a herald.
"Quiet, dear gossip," said Sir Henry. "I will make thee weep ere I 've done, even now," and there were no more interruptions.
"Such was the story of Signor Nicolo, your Grace, about the talisman which I still held in my hand. It was, he went on to tell me, the very talisman which Mangu Khan had carried in his hand, as an excuse, when he went at night in the disguise of a priest, to see his three nephews as they really were. At this moment the talisman was gently taken from my hand by Giovanni Doria, the Genoese gentleman prisoner who sat on my left. I saw that my part in the play was done, and I sat back, while Doria leant over me and Signor Mathio, and entered into eager conversation with old Signor Nicolo. I wondered much what was to follow, and I looked round. All the guests were sitting perfectly silent looking steadily at us; and I noticed, moreover, that a great crimson silk curtain had been let down in the arch which divided the banqueting-hall from the first of the great galleries which I have described, and which now blocked the view of the first gallery from us. We were shut in together by that curtain which filled the arch. What was to come from behind that curtain I could not guess. I had ears for the conversation of Signor Doria and Signor Nicolo; but my eyes were on the curtain.
"Signor Doria, leaning over me, began a sharp, eager conversation with Signor Nicolo. I could see now that whatever of a secret there was, Signor Mathio was not in it; he was as puzzled as I was. And I may now remark, your Grace, that the whole of these Venetian gentlemen, on that night, and on every other occasion, showed a fineness of breeding, a giving up of themselves to others, a consideration of other's wishes and hopes, such as one never sees in this dear England of ours. But of all the gentlemen, Signor Doria of Genoa was the finest. If he had been the old man's son, instead of a prisoner of war, he could not have shown a finer courtesy. He, with the talisman in his hand, began the conversation across me. I leant back watching all parties.
"' You have not told us yet,' said Signor Doria, 'how you become possessed of this talisman, my dear father.'
"' It is not mine,' said the old man, with a sigh. 'It is my glorious son's. Kublai Khan gave it to him after his return from his mission to Caraean. When your uncle Lampa took him prisoner, I wore it myself as a relic of my poor boy, whom I am never to sec again. Your uncle Lampa was ray dear friend when we were bovs at Genoa, before this weary wandering began. Why has he not sent me my boy back, dear Giovanni V'
"' This talisman has magical properties, has it not ?' said Doria. 'May I look into it?'
"' Fools say that it will show the past and the present, but not the future,' said Signor Nicolo. 'Any talisman would do that, I think. I only want my boy. I am a-weary of waiting. Let me look upon his face and die.'
"' Doria had got the sapphire between his face and Signor Nicolo's, and was looking over it at the old man with his great gray eyes. A more beautiful face or more beautiful eyes I shall never see again, your Grace, until I see Doria's in heaven. 'I will look into this jewel, dear father,' he said, 'and I will tell you what I see. The past and the present, saidst thou? I will tell thee what I see.'
"' Go on, then, if the humor takes thee,' said the old man smiling. 'Canst thou see my boy's face? That were the oravest sight of alL'
"' I see,' said Doria, who was not looking into the jewel at all, but watching the old man, —' I
see two gentlemen, wandering on through woods, mountains, towns of people, so strange that I know not of their nation, — year after year towards the east. And with them I see a youth, with whose beauty none living may compare; and they have wandered so long that the youth has grown into a man. At first into a young man, whose laughing eyes sparkle at each new wonder on his wondrous wayside; but at last, before his journey is ended, into a solemn man, a statesman, a king among all the kings of the earth, — a man before whose gentle and wise counsels wild war dies into silence, and treason and anarchy give way to loyalty and peace.'
"' Thou readest truly enough,' said the old man, weeping. 'Who could not read this of my son? But ah! the bitter present I'
"I follow this young man, now middle-aged, on his glorious career. I have seen in this stone twenty-six years of his life. I see him wearying of his noble work among the nations who know not God, and pining for his own beautiful Venice. I see him persuading the two old gentlemen, who are with him, to return, and I see them return.'
"' Ah, weary day!' said Signor Nicolo.
"' Now I see a sea-fight, in shallow waters. And I hear the cries of the victorious Genoese galleys, and they cry, 'Doria! Doria!' and then they sail away, and two old men are left wailing on the shore.'
"Signor Nicolo bowed his head.
"' Then I see the palaces at Genoa, my own dear home. And I see the man we speak of courted, caressed, loved by high and low. A prisoner, truly, 6iich a prisoner as am I, but with' the court of a prince. That is what I see.'
"'That is all the past and the present,' interposed solemn Signor Mathio. 'I could see that. Thou canst not see the future, dear Doria. They who said that that talisman could show the future, lied. What more dost thou see of the present?'
"' I see nothing more,' cried Doria, casting the noble jewel down with a dash,' but I hear. I hear footsteps. I hear them coming towards us. Up the staircase, through the corridor, through gallery after gallery towards us. And those footsteps are the footsteps of the Arbiter of Cathay, and he is here!'"
"I, your Grace," said Sir Henry Mallory to Edward the Third, "had begun to guess what was coming, but very dimly. I, therefore, hearing every word which Doria spoke, looked steadily at the crimson curtain which filled the arch, knowing by instinct that the secret would be read by that curtain. Not another Venetian gentleman looked towards it, though some of them were young, and, of course, curious. As I said before, your Grace, their manners are better than ours.
"But at a certain point in Signor Doria's conversation, I saw that I had not looked in vain. The curtain was raised at one corner, and a man came in and stood perfectly silent and still before it, looking towards us, who were at the upper end of the table. He was a very tall man, with a large brown beard, not shaved according to the Venetian fashion of the time, but growing large and loose. He was clothed entirely from head to foot in white satin, with a few slashes of amber-colored velvet here and there; and from his left shoulder hung a short amber-colored velvet cloak. One could, in these colors, see him well with the crimson satin curtain
said, and I knew in a moment that I was looking on the immortal MARCO POLO!
"I left feasting my eyes on him at once. I had seen him. My grandchildren could say now: 'Our grandsire saw Marco Polo at Venice, after his return from captivity at Genoa.' I turned to the group on my right. Doria sank back in his chair, saying, 'I hope it has not killed him 1' Dandalo, who had been talking ship-talk all the evening, on the left side of the Paolos, came up and said, 'What ho! Signor Nicolo, thy son is come back!' But we could not rouse the old man for some time. We brought up Marco Polo himself, but the old gentleman did not know him at first. When he did, he kissed him, and asked him where he had been. The whole plot was a failure, as it seemed to us, after all the pains we had taken. Marco Polo knelt at his father's knees, and took his head on his shoulder. There was the brown beard of the one and the white beard of the other intermingling, and the blue velvet and gold of Signor Mathio's dress was intermixed with the white satin and amber of Signor Marco (a strange picture, your Grace), with all the brilliant dress and jewelry of Venice crowding round. Every one stood perfectly silent: Mathio alone weeping. Since the world began, your Grace, I doubt if a nobler company was ever assembled; there were twenty-nine of the most richly-dressed men in Europe crowding round the old man and his son, who were in one another's arms after their weary separation, and whilst we looked on, we were joined by another."
"And who was he?" said King Edward the Third.
"Death, your Majesty. Marco Polo, after a time, half rose, and looked into his father's face, and then gently laid him back in his chair, and closed his eyes. He turned his noble presence round on us, and said, ' Gentlemen, I have been bravely welcomed back to Venice. The conqueror of all conquerors has come to greet me.'
"And that was the only time you ever saw him," said the King. "Now describe to us what manner of man he was."
"He was," said the fool, with his former imitation of Sir Henry, "as like my Lord Mortimer as two peas. I mean as my Lord Mortimer was fifty years ago, when he was younger, and not so ill-looking. I —"
At this moment a grave old gentleman approached the King.
"May it please your Grace, my Lord Mortimer, humbly, and of his duty, prayeth you incontinent to send him your fool, to answer certain matters."
"Thou lunatic!" said the King, " what hast thou been doing?"
"Your Grace's fool has roused the townsfolk," said the old gentleman.
"Bid them go to bed again," said the King.
"But the townsfolk have aroused your Grace's mother, the Queen Isabella," said the old gentleman.
"The devil!" said the King. "Thou unlucky fool! what hast thou been doing?"
"I did but tell a mournful story, like Sir Henry Mullory," said the fool, fairly aghast at having aroused the " she wolf of France from her lair." "i did but tell the warder that the castle was afire, and bid him ring the bell. I am lost," continued the reckless man, "unless with your Grace's protection.