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"She was beautiful?" I prompted.
"Men have said so, but for it he surrendered the Peace. Do not speak of her accursed beauty."
Her voice died away to a drowsy murmur; her head dropped on my shoulder and for the mere de- light of contact I sat still and scarcely breathed, praying that she might speak again, but the good minute was gone. She drew one or two deep breaths, and sat up with a bewildered look that quickly passed.
"I was quite sleepy for a minute. The climb was so strenuous. Hark - I hear the Flute of Krishna again."
And again I could hear nothing, but she said it was sounding from the trees at the base of the hill. Later when we climbed down I found she was right - that a peasant lad, dark and amazingly beautiful as these Kashmiris often are, was playing on the flute to a girl at his feet - looking up at him with rapt eyes. He flung Vanna a flower as we passed. She caught it and put it in her bosom. A singular blossom, three petals of purest white, set against three leaves of purest green, and lower down the stem the three green leaves were repeated. It was still in her bosom after dinner, and I looked at it more closely.
"That is a curious flower," I said. "Three and three and three. Nine. That makes the mystic number. I never saw a purer white. What is it?"
"Of course it is mystic," she said seriously. "It is the Ninefold Flower. You saw who gave it?"
"That peasant lad."
"You will see more some day. Some might not even have seen that."
"Does it grow here?"
"This is the first I have seen. It is said to grow only where the gods walk. Do you know that throughout all India Kashmir is said to be holy ground? It was called long ago the land of the gods, and of strange, but not evil, sorceries. Great marvels were seen here."
I felt the labyrinthine enchantments of that enchanted land were closing about me - a slender web, grey, almost impalpable, finer than fairy silk, was winding itself about my feet. My eyes were opening to things I had not dreamed. She saw my thought.
"Yes, you could not have seen even that much of him in Peshawar. You did not know then."
"He was not there," I answered, falling half unconsciously into her tone.
"He is always there - everywhere, and when he plays, all who hear must follow. He was the Pied Piper in Hamelin, he was Pan in Hellas. You will hear his wild fluting in many strange places when you know how to listen. When one has seen him the rest comes soon. And then you will follow."
"Not away from you, Vanna."
"From the marriage feast, from the Table of the Lord," she said, smiling strangely. "The man who wrote that spoke of another call, but it is the same - Krishna or Christ. When we hear the music we follow. And we may lose or gain heaven."
It might have been her compelling personality - it might have been the marvels of beauty about me, but I knew well I had entered at some mystic gate. A pass word had been spoken for me - I was vouched for and might go in. Only a little way as yet. Enchanted forests lay beyond, and perilous seas, but there were hints, breaths like the wafting of the garments of unspeakable Presences. My talk with Vanna grew less personal, and more introspective. I felt the touch of her finger-tips leading me along the ways of Quiet - my feet brushed a shining dew. Once, in the twilight under the chenar trees, I saw a white gleaming and thought it a swiftly passing Being, but when in haste I gained the tree I found there only a Ninefold flower, white as a spirit in the evening calm. I would not gather it but told Vanna what I had seen.
"You nearly saw;' she said. "She passed so quickly. It was the Snowy One, Uma, Parvati, the Daughter of the Himalaya. That mountain is the mountain of her lord - Shiva. It is natural she should be here. I saw her last night lean over the height - her face pillowed on her folded arms, with a low star in the mists of her hair. Her eyes were like lakes of blue darkness. Vast and wonderful. She is the Mystic Mother of India. You will see soon. You could not have seen the flower until now."
"Do you know," she added, "that in the mountains there are poppies of clear blue - blue as turquoise. We will go up into the heights and find them."
And next moment she was planning the camping details, the men, the ponies, with a practical zest that seemed to relegate the occult to the absurd. Yet the very next day came a wonderful moment.
The sun was just setting and, as it were, suddenly the purple glooms banked up heavy with thunder. The sky was black with fury, the earth passive with dread. I never saw such lightning - it was continuous and tore in zigzag flashes down the mountains like rents in the substance of the world's fabric. And the thunder roared up in the mountain gorges with shattering echoes. Then fell the rain, and the whole lake seemed to rise to meet it, and the noise was like the rattle of musketry. We were standing by the cabin window and she suddenly caught my hand, and I saw in a light of their own two dancing figures on the tormented water before us. Wild in the tumult, embodied delight, with arms tossed violently above their heads, and feet flung up behind them, skimming the waves like seagulls, they passed. Their sex I could not tell - I think they had none, but were bubble emanations of the rejoicing rush of the rain and the wild retreating laughter of the thunder. I saw the fierce aerial faces and their inhuman glee as they fled by, and she dropped my hand and they were gone. Slowly the storm lessened, and in the west the clouds tore raggedly asunder and a flood of livid yellow light poured down upon the lake - an awful light that struck it into an abyss of fire. Then, as if at a word of command, two glorious rainbows sprang across the water with the mountains for their piers, each with its proper colours chorded. They made a Bridge of Dread that stood out radiant against the background of storm - the Twilight of the Gods, and the doomed gods marching forth to the last fight. And the thunder growled sullenly away into the recesses of the hill and the terrible rainbows faded until the stars came quietly out and it was a still night.
But I had seen that what is our dread is the joy of the spirits of the Mighty Mother, and though the vision faded and I doubted what I had seen, it prepared the way for what I was yet to see. A few days later we started on what was to be the most exquisite memory of my life. A train of ponies carried our tents and camping necessaries and there was a pony for each of us. And so, in the cool grey of a divine morning, with little rosy clouds flecking the eastern sky, we set out from Islamabad for Vernag. And this was the order of our going. She and I led the way, attended by a sais (groom) and a coolie carrying the luncheon basket. Half way we would stop in some green dell, or by some rushing stream, and there rest and eat our little meal while the rest of the cavalcade passed on to the appointed camping place, and in the late afternoon we would follow, riding slowly, and find the tents pitched and the kitchen department in full swing. If the place pleased us we lingered for some days; - if not, the camp was struck next morning, and again we wandered in search of beauty.
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The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams BeckBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.