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"I remember before I came to India," she went on, "there were certain words and phrases that meant the whole East to me. It was an enchantment. The. first flash picture I had was Milton's-
'Dark faces with white silken turbans wreathed.'
and it still is. I have thought ever since that every man should wear a turban. It dignifies the un-comeliest and it is quite curious to see how many inches a man descends in the scale of beauty the moment he takes it off and you see only the skull-cap about which they wind it. They wind it with wonderful skill too. I have seen a man take eighteen yards of muslin and throw it round his head with a few turns, and in five or six minutes the beautiful folds were all in order and he looked like a king. Some of the Gujars here wear black ones and they are very effective and worth painting - the black folds and the sullen tempestuous black brows underneath."
We sat in the pavilion for awhile looking down on the rushing water, and she spoke of Akbar, the greatest of the Moguls, and spoke with a curious personal touch, as I thought.
"I wish you would try to write a story of him - one on more human lines than has been done yet. No one has accounted for the passionate quest of truth that was the real secret of his life. Strange in an Oriental despot if you think of it! It really can only be understood from the Buddhist belief, which curiously seems to have been the only one he neglected, that a mysterious Karma influenced all his thoughts. If I tell you as a key-note for your story, that in a past life he had been a Buddhist priest - one who had fallen away, would that in any way account to you for attempts to recover the lost way? Try to think that out, and to write the story, not as a Western mind sees it, but pure East."
"That would be a great book to write if one could catch the voices of the past. But how to do it?"
"I will give you one day a little book that may help you. The other story I wish you would write is the story of a Dancer of Peshawar. There is a connection between the two - a story of ruin and repentance."
"Will you tell it to me?"
"A part. In this same book you will find much more, hut not all. All cannot be told. You must imagine much. But I think your imagination will be true."
"Why do you think so?"
"Because in these few days you have learnt so much. You have seen the Ninefold Flower, and the rain spirits. You will soon hear the Flute of Krishna which none can hear who cannot dream true."
That night I heard it. I waked, suddenly, to music, and standing in the door of my tent, in the dead silence of the night, lit only by a few low stars, I heard the poignant notes of a flute. If it had called my name it could not have summoned me more clearly, and I followed without a thought of delay, forgetting even Vanna in the strange urgency that filled me. The music was elusive, seeming to come first from one side, then from the other, but finally I tracked it as a bee does a flower by the scent, to the gate of the royal garden - the pleasure place of the dead Emperors.
The gate stood ajar - strange! for I had seen the custodian close it that evening. Now it stood wide and I went in, walking noiselessly over the dewy grass. I knew and could not tell how, that I must be noiseless. Passing as if I were guided, down the course of the strong young river, I came to the pavilion that spanned it - the place where we had stood that afternoon - and there to my profound amazement, I saw Vanna, leaning against a slight wooden pillar. As if she had expected me, she laid one finger on her lip, and stretching out her hand, took mine and drew me beside her as a mother might a child. And instantly I saw!
On the further bank a young man in a strange diadem or miter of jewels, bare-breasted and beautiful, stood among the flowering oleanders, one foot lightly crossed over the other as he stood. He was like an image of pale radiant gold, and I could have sworn that the light came from within rather than fell upon him, for the night was very dark. He held the flute to his lips, and as I looked, I became aware that the noise of the rushing water was tapering off into a murmur scarcely louder than that of a summer bee in the heart of a rose. Therefore the music rose like a fountain of crystal drops, cold, clear, and of an entrancing sweetness, and the face above it was such that I had no power to turn my eyes away. How shall I say what it was? All I had ever desired, dreamed, hoped, prayed, looked at me from the remote beauty of the eyes and with the most persuasive gentleness entreated me, rather than commanded to follow fearlessly and win. But these are words, and words shaped in the rough mould of thought cannot convey the deep desire that would have hurled me to his feet if Vanna had not held me with a firm restraining hand. Looking up in adoring love to the dark face was a ring of woodland creatures. I thought I could distinguish the white clouded robe of a snow- leopard, the soft clumsiness of a young bear, and many more, but these shifted and blurred like dream creatures - I could not be sure of them nor define their numbers. The eyes of the Player looked down upon their passionate delight with careless kindness.
Dim images passed through my mind. Orpheus - No, this was no Greek. Pan-yet again, No. Where were the pipes, the goat hoofs? The young Dionysos - No, there were strange jewels instead of his vines. And then Vanna's voice said as if from a great distance;
"Krishna - the Beloved." And I said aloud, "I see!" And even as I said it the whole picture blurred together like a dream, and I was alone in the pavilion and the water was foaming past me. Had I walked in my sleep, I thought, as I made my way hack? As I gained the garden gate, before me, like a snowflake, I saw the Ninefold Flower.
When I told her next day, speaking of it as a dream, she said simply; "They have opened the door to you. You will not need me soon.
"I shall always need you. You have taught me everything. I could see nothing last night until you took my hand."
"I was not there," she said smiling. "It was only the thought of me, and you can have that when I am very far away. I was sleeping in my tent. What you called in me then you can always call, even if I am - dead."
"That is a word which is beginning to have no meaning for me. You have said things to me - no, thought them, that have made me doubt if there is room in the universe for the thing we have called death."
She smiled her sweet wise smile.
"Where we are death is not. Where death is we are not. But you will understand better soon."
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The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams Beck