Three days and three nights the brothers sought for the tomb ofNoferkephtah in the immeasurable city of the dead; and after theyhad threaded many miles of black corridors, and descended into manyhundred burial pits, and were weary with the deciphering of innumerableinscriptions by quivering light of lamps, they found his resting-placeat last. Now, when they entered the tomb their eyes were dazzled; forNoferkephtah was lying there with his wife Ahouri beside him; and thebook of Thoth, placed between them, shed such a light around, that itseemed like the brightness of the sun. And when Satni entered, theShadow of Ahouri rose against the light; and she asked him, \"Who artthou\"
All things there are white, save the black sea and the wan fogs; andyet it is hard to discover where the water ends and the land begins,for that part of the world the gods forgot to finish. The ice-peaksgrow and diminish, and shift their range north-ward and southward,and change their aspects grotesquely. There are Faces in the ice thatlengthen and broaden; and Forms as of vanished creatures. When it isfull moon the innumerable multitude of dogs, that live upon dead fish,howl all together at the roaring sea; and the great bears hearinghuddle themselves together on the highest heights of the glaciers, andthence hurl down sharp white crags upon the dogs. Above all, risinginto the Red Lights, there is a mountain which has been a fountain ofliving fire ever since the being of the world; and all the surface ofthe land about is heaped with monstrous bones. But this is summer inthat place; in winter there is no sound but the groaning of the[Pg 24] ice,the shrieking of the winds, the gnashing of the teeth of the floes.
The aged Wainamoinen, the valiant Wainamoinen, made answer: \"Then Ironhid itself; Iron found a refuge in the extremity of a long cloud, inthe summit of an oak stripped of its branches, in the budding bosom ofa young girl.... There were three virgins, three affianced maidens, whopoured forth upon the ground the milk of their breasts. The milk of thefirst was black; the milk of the second, white; the milk of the thirdwas ruddy. Of the virgin whose milk was black, Flexible Iron was born;of her whose milk was white, Fragile Iron was born; of her with theruddy milk was born Steel.... Then for two years Iron hid itself in themidst of a vast marsh, upon the summit of a rock where the white swanslaid their eggs, where the wild duck hatched out her little ones. Andthe wolf rushed through the marsh; and the bear rushed into the sterileplain; and they tore up the earth that concealed the Iron. But a god,passing through that barren place, saw the black sand that the wolf hadtorn up, that the bear had trampled beneath his feet.... And that daythe Iron was taken out of the marsh, and purged from the slime of theearth, and purified by drying from the humidity of the waters.\"
But the valiant Wainamoinen made answer: \"Nay! not yet has the originof Iron been told. For, without devouring Fire, Iron may not beborn;[Pg 136] without Water, it may not be hardened. Into the workshop ofthe great smith it was borne, into the forge of Ilmarinnen; and themighty craftsman, the Eternal Smith, said unto it: 'If I place theewithin my fire, if I put thee into the flame of my forge-fire, thouwilt become arrogant, thou wilt wax strong, thou wilt spread terrorabout thee, thou wilt slay thy brother, thou wilt kill the son of thymother.'... Then the Iron within the forge fires, under the blows ofthe hammer, sware this oath: 'I have trees to rend, hearts of stone tognaw; no! never will I slay my brother, never will I kill the son ofmy mother.'... Then did Ilmarinnen soften the Iron within the heartof the furnace, and shape it upon the anvil. But ere dipping it intothe water, he tested with his tongue, he tasted with his palate, thecreative juices of Steel, the water that gives hardness unto Iron. Andhe cried: 'This water is powerless to create Steel, to harden Iron. OMehilainen, bird of Hiisi! O Herlihainen, my bird-friend! fly hitherupon thine agile wings; fly over the marshes, over the lands, over thestraits of the ocean! bring me honey upon thy feathers; bear to me uponthy tongue the honey of seven meadow-stalks, of six flower-pistils,for the Steel I am going to make, for the Iron I wish to harden.'...But Herlihainen, the evil bird of Hiisi the Evil, brought the venomof blood, the black juices of a worm that his lizard-eyes had seen,the hidden poison of the toad; and he gave these to Ilmarinnen for theSteel[Pg 137] which was being prepared, the Iron that was to be tempered. Andsuddenly the Iron quivered with rage; it growled; it moved; its oathwas forgotten; like a dog it swallowed its own oath, and it slew itsbrother, it murdered the son of its mother. Even now it plunges intoflesh, bites the knees of men, rages so that blood flows and flows andoverflows in vast torrents.\"
Then a deep silence brooded above the place; for Solomon dreamed uponthese words, while the perfumed cloud stirred not, and the white handmotionlessly offered the jewel-cup. And so dreaming, he said unto hisown heart: \"Surely the gold[Pg 143] of life is good wherewith to purchase manythings at the great market of the Resurrection; the plain of life isa rich soil wherein to plant the spice-trees of eternal felicity; andjoyless is the black repose of death.... Yet must I ask counsel of theGenii, and the Peris, and the wisest of men, and the beasts of earth,and the birds of air, before I may resolve to drink.\"
To discover these vibrant bits of poesy in their commonplace setting islike finding rare and glorious orchids in the midst of the crowfootsand black-eyed Susans that crowd the banquettes and gutters' edges ofour New Orleans streets.
\"Also I hated the rumble of traffic and the roar of the race for gold;the shadows of palaces on burning streets; the sound of toiling feet;the black breath of towered chimneys; and the vast machines, foreverlaboring with sinews of brass, and panting with heart of steam andsteel. 59ce067264