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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Golden Dream
By Charles Nodier (1780–1844)
 
The Kardouon

AS all the world knows, the Kardouon is the prettiest, the cleverest, and the most courteous of lizards. The Kardouon dresses in gold like a great lord, but he is shy and modest; and from his solitary secluded life people think him a scholar. The Kardouon has never done ill to any one, and every one loves the Kardouon. The young girls are proud when, as they pass, he gazes upon them with love and joy, erecting his neck of iridescent blue and ruby between the fissures of an old wall, or sparkling in the sunshine with countless reflections from the marvelous tissue in which he is clad.  1
  They say to each other: “It was I, not you, whom he looked at to-day. He thought me the prettiest, and I’ll be his love.”  2
  The Kardouon thinks nothing of the kind. He is looking about for good roots to feast his comrades, and to enjoy with them at his leisure on a sparkling stone in the full noontide heat.  3
  One day the Kardouon found in the desert a treasure composed of bright new coins, so pretty and polished that they seemed to have just bounded out with a groan from under the measure. A fugitive king had left them there so that he could go faster.  4
  “Goodness of God!” said the Kardouon. “Here, if I’m not much mistaken, is a precious provision just right for the winter. It’s nothing less than slices of that fresh sugary carrot which always revives my spirits when solitude wearies me, and the most appetizing I ever have seen.”  5
  And the Kardouon glided toward the treasure—not directly, for that is not his way, but winding about prudently; now with head raised, nose in the air, his whole body in a straight line, his tail vertical like a stake; then pausing undecided, inclining first one eye then the other toward the ground, to listen with each of his fine Kardouon’s ears; then lifting his gaze, examining right and left, listening to everything, seeing everything, gradually reassuring himself; darting forward like a brave Kardouon; then drawing back, palpitating with terror, like a poor Kardouon far from his hole, who feels himself pursued; and then happy and proud, arching his back, rounding his shoulders, rolling the folds of his rich caparison, lifting the gilded scales of his coat of mail, growing green, undulating, flying forward, flinging to the winds the dust under his feet, and lashing it with his tail. Unquestionably he was the handsomest of Kardouons.  6
  When he had reached the treasure, he pierced it with his glance, grew rigid as a piece of wood, drew himself up on his two front feet and fell upon the first piece of gold which met his teeth.  7
  He broke one of them.  8
  The Kardouon dashed ten feet backward, returned more thoughtfully, and bit more modestly.  9
  “They’re abominably dry,” he said. “Oh! when Kardouons collect such a store of sliced carrots for their posterity, they make a great mistake not to put them in a damp spot where they would retain their nourishing quality! It must be admitted,” he added to himself, “that the Kardouon species is not very advanced. As for me, thank heaven, I dined the other day, and don’t need whatever wretched meal I can find, like a common Kardouon. I’ll carry this provender under the great tree of the desert, among the grasses moist with the dew of heaven and the freshness of springs. I will sleep beside it on the soft fine sand, which the earliest dawn will warm; and when a clumsy bee, dizzy from the blossom where she has spent the night, buzzing about like a mad thing, awakens me with her humming, I will begin the most regal repast ever made by a Kardouon.”  10
  The Kardouon I am describing was a Kardouon of execution. What he said he did, which is much. By evening the whole treasure, transported piece by piece, was getting uselessly refreshed on a fine carpet of long silky moss, which bent beneath its weight. Overhead an enormous tree stretched boughs luxuriant with leaves and flowers, and seemed to invite passers-by to enjoy a pleasant slumber in its shade.  11
  And the tired Kardouon went peacefully to sleep, dreaming of fresh roots.  12
  This is the Kardouon’s story.  13
 
Xailoun

  THE NEXT day Xailoun, the poor wood-cutter, came to this same spot, enticed by the melodious gurgle of running water, and by the fresh and laughing rustle of the leaves. He was still far from the forest, and as usual in no hurry to reach it, and this restful place flattered his natural indolence.
  14
  As few knew Xailoun during his lifetime, I will say that he was one of the disgraced children of nature, who seem born merely to exist. As he was dull in mind and deformed in body—although a good simple creature incapable of doing, of thinking, or even of understanding, evil—his family had always looked upon him as a subject of sadness and vexation. Constant humiliations had early inspired Xailoun with a taste for solitude; and this, and the fact that other professions were forbidden by his weakness of mind, were the reasons why he had been made a wood-cutter. In the town he was known only as silly Xailoun. Indeed, the children followed him through the streets with mischievous laughter, calling: “Room, room, for honest Xailoun. Xailoun, the best-natured wood-cutter who ever held hatchet! Behold him on his way to the glades of the wood to talk science with his cousin the Kardouon. Ah! noble Xailoun!”  15
  And his brothers, blushing in proud shame, retreated as he passed.  16
  But Xailoun did not seem to notice them, and he laughed with the children.  17
  Now it is not natural for any man to judge ill of his own intelligence; and Xailoun used to think that the chief cause of this daily disdain and derision was the poverty of his clothes. He had decided that the Kardouon, who in the sunlight is the most beautiful of all the dwellers of earth, was the most favored of all God’s creatures; and he secretly promised himself, if he should ever attain his intimate friendship, to deck himself in some cast-off bit of the Kardouon’s costume, and stroll proudly about the country to fascinate the eyes of the good folk.  18
  “Moreover,” he added, when he had reflected as much as his Xailoun’s judgment permitted, “the Kardouon is my cousin, they say; and I feel it is true, from the sympathy which attracts me toward this honorable personage. Since my brothers disdain me, the Kardouon is my nearest of kin; and I want to live with him if he welcomes me, even if I am good for nothing more than to spread a bed of dried leaves for him every night, and to tuck him in while he sleeps, and to warm his room with a bright and cheerful fire when the weather is bad. The Kardouon may grow old before I do; for he was nimble and beautiful when I was still very young, and when my mother used to point and say, ‘See, there is the Kardouon.’ I know, thank God, how to render little services to an invalid, and how to divert him with pleasant trifles. It’s too bad he’s so haughty!”  19
  In truth, the Kardouon did not usually respond cordially to Xailoun’s advances, but vanished in the sand like a flash at his approach; and did not pause until safe behind a stone or hillock, to turn on him sidewise two sparkling eyes, which might have made carbuncles envious.  20
  Then clasping his hands, Xailoun would say respectfully, “Alas, cousin! why do you run away from your friend and comrade? I ask only to follow and to serve you instead of my brothers, for whom I would willingly die, but who are less kind and charming than you. If you chance to need a good servant, do not repel, as they do, your faithful Xailoun.”  21
  But the Kardouon always went away; and Xailoun returned to his mother, weeping because his cousin the Kardouon would not speak to him.  22
  This day his mother had driven him off, pushing him by the shoulders and striking him in her anger.  23
  “Clear out, good-for-nothing!” she said to him. “Go back to your cousin the Kardouon, for you don’t deserve any other kin.”  24
  As usual, Xailoun had obeyed; and he was looking for his cousin the Kardouon.  25
  “Oh! oh!” he said, as he reached the tree with the great green boughs, “here’s something new. My cousin the Kardouon has gone to sleep in the shade here, where the streams meet. When he wakes, will be a good chance to talk business. But what the deuce is he guarding, and what does he mean to do with all those funny bits of yellow lead? Brighten up his clothes, perhaps. He may be thinking of marriage. Faith, the Kardouon shops have their cheats too; for that metal looks coarse, and one bit of my cousin’s old coat is a thousand times better. However, I’ll see what he says if he’s more talkative than usual: for I can rest here; and as I’m a light sleeper, I am sure to wake as soon as he does.”  26
  Just as Xailoun was lying down, he had an idea.  27
  “It’s a cool night,” he said, “and my cousin the Kardouon is not used like me to sleeping along springs and in forests. The morning air is not healthy.”  28
  Xailoun took off his coat and spread it lightly over the Kardouon, careful not to wake him. The Kardouon did not wake.  29
  Then Xailoun slept profoundly, dreaming of friendship with the Kardouon.  30
  This is Xailoun’s story.  31
 
The Fakir Abhoc

  THE NEXT day there came to this same spot the fakir Abhoc, who had feigned to start on a pilgrimage, but who was really hunting some windfall.
  32
  As he approached to rest at the spring he caught sight of the treasure, embraced it in a glance, and quickly reckoned its value on his fingers.  33
  “Unlooked-for luck!” he cried, “which the merciful omnipotent Lord at last vouchsafes my society, after so many years of trial; and which, to render its conquest the easier, he has deigned to place under the simple guard of an innocent lizard and of a poor imbecile boy!”  34
  I must tell you that the fakir Abhoc knew both Xailoun and the Kardouon perfectly by sight.  35
  “Heaven be praised in all things,” he added, sitting down a few steps away. “Good-by to the fakir’s robe, to the long fasts, to the hard mortifying of the flesh. I mean to change my country and manner of life; and in the first kingdom that takes my fancy, I’ll buy some good province, which will yield a fat revenue. Once established in my palace, I will give myself up to enjoyment, among flowers and perfumes, in the midst of pretty slaves, who will rock my spirits gently with their melodious music, while I toss off exquisite wines from the largest of my golden cups. I am growing old, and good wine gladdens the heart of age. But this treasure is heavy, and it would ill become a great territorial lord like myself, with a multitude of servants and countless militia, to turn porter, even if no one saw me. A prince must respect himself if he would win the respect of his people. Besides, this peasant seems to have been sent here expressly to serve me. He is strong as an ox, and can easily carry my gold to the next village; and once there, I will give him my monkish suit and some common money, such as poor people use.”  36
  After this fine soliloquy, the fakir Abhoc, sure that his treasure was in no danger from either the Kardouon or poor Xailoun, who knew its value as little, yielded willingly to sleep, dreaming proudly of his harem, peopled with the rarest beauties of the Orient, and of his Schiraz wine, foaming in golden cups.  37
  This is the fakir Abhoc’s story.  38
 
Doctor Abhac

  THE NEXT day there came to the same place, Dr. Abhac, a man versed in all law, who had lost his way while meditating an ambiguous text of which the jurists had already given one hundred and thirty-two different interpretations. He was about to seize the one hundred and thirty-third when the sight of the treasure made him forget it entirely, and transported his thought to the ticklish subject of invention, property, and treasure. It was blotted from his memory so completely that he would not have found it again in a hundred years. It is a great loss.
  39
  “It appears,” said Dr. Abhac, “as though the Kardouon had discovered the treasure, and I’ll guaranty that he will not plead his right of priority to claim his legal portion of the division. Therefore the said Kardouon is excluded from the consideration. As for the treasure and its ownership, I maintain that this is a waste spot, common property of all and any, over which neither State nor individual has rights. A fortunate feature of the actual facts is this junction of running waters, marking, if I am not mistaken, the disputed boundary between two warlike peoples; and long and bloody wars being likely to arise from the possible conflict of two jurisdictions. Therefore I would accomplish an innocent, legitimate, even provident act, if I were to carry the treasure elsewhere, or take what I can. As for these two adventurers, of whom one seems a poor woodcutter and the other a wretched fakir, folks of neither name nor weight, they have probably come here to sleep in order to make an amiable division to-morrow; since they are unacquainted with both text and commentary, and probably esteem themselves equal in force. But they cannot extricate themselves without a lawsuit, upon that I’ll stake my reputation. But as I am growing sleepy from the great perturbation of mind resulting from this business, I will take formal possession by putting some of these pieces in my turban in order to prove publicly and decisively in court, if the case is there evoked, the priority of my claims; since he who possesses the thing by desire of ownership, tradition of ownership, and first possession, is presumably owner, according to the law.”  40
  And Dr. Abhac fortified his turban with so many pieces of proof that he spent a good part of the day, poor man, dragging it to the spot where the shadow of the protecting boughs was dying in the low rays of sun. Again and again he returned to add new witnesses, until he finally decided to fill his turban and risk sleeping bareheaded in the evening dew.  41
  “I need not be anxious about waking,” he said, leaning his freshly shaven crown on the stuffed turban, which served as a pillow. “These people will begin to dispute by dawn, and will be glad enough to find a lawyer at hand, so I will be assured of my part and parcel.”  42
  After which Dr. Abhac slumbered magisterially, dreaming of gold and of legal procedures.  43
  This is the story of Dr. Abhac.  44
 
The King of the Sands

  THE NEXT day toward sunset there came to the same spot a famous bandit, whose name history has not preserved; but who was the terror of the caravans throughout the country, and who, from the heavy tributes he exacted, was called the King of the Sands. He had never before come so far into the desert, for this route was little frequented by travelers; and the sight of the spring and the shady boughs so rejoiced his heart, not often awake to the beauties of nature, that he decided to stop for a moment.
  45
  “Not a bad idea of mine,” he murmured between his teeth when he saw the treasure. “The Kardouon, following the immemorial custom of lizards and dragons, is guarding this heap of gold with which he has no concern, and these three poor parasites have come here together to divide it. If I try to take charge of this booty while they are asleep I shall surely awaken the Kardouon, who is always on the alert, and he will arouse these scamps, and I’ll have to deal with the lizard, the woodcutter, the fakir, and the lawyer, who all want the prize, and are able to fight for it. Prudence admonishes me to feign sleep beside them until the shadows have fallen; and later, I’ll profit by the darkness to kill them one after another with a good blow of my dagger. This is such a lonely spot that to-morrow I can easily carry off all this wealth; and I’ll not hurry away until I have breakfasted off this Kardouon, whose flesh, my father used to say, is very delicate.”  46
  And he went to sleep in his turn, dreaming of pillage, assassinations, and broiled Kardouons.  47
  This is the story of the King of the Sands, who was a robber, and so named to distinguish him from the others.  48
 
The Sage Lockman

  THE NEXT day there came to the same spot Lockman the Sage, poet and philosopher; Lockman, lover of men, preceptor of peoples, and counselor of kings; Lockman, who often sought remotest solitudes to meditate upon God and nature.
  49
  And Lockman walked slowly, enfeebled by age; for that day he had reached the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth.  50
  Lockman paused at the spectacle under the tree of the desert, and reflected a moment.  51
  “The picture offered my eyes by Divine bounty,” at last he exclaimed, “contains ineffable instruction, O sublime Creator of all things; and as I contemplate, my soul is overwhelmed with admiration for the lessons resulting from your works, and with compassion for the senseless beings who ignore you.  52
  “Here is a treasure, as men say, which may often have given its owner repose of mind and soul.  53
  “Here is the Kardouon, who has found these gold pieces, and guided only by the feeble instinct you have given him, has mistaken them for slices of sun-dried roots.  54
  “Here is poor Xailoun, whose eyes were dazzled by the Kardouon’s splendor, because his mind could not reach you through the shadows which envelop him like an infant’s swaddling-clothes, and fails to adore in this glorious apparel the omnipotent hand which thus clad the humblest of creatures.  55
  “Here is the fakir Abhoc, who has trusted in the natural timidity of the Kardouon and the imbecility of Xailoun, in order to possess himself of all this wealth, and to render his old age opulent.  56
  “Here is Dr. Abhac, who has reckoned on the debate sure to arise upon the division of these deceitful vanities, that he may institute himself mediator and decree himself a double share.  57
  “Here is the King of the Sands, the last comer, revolving fatal ideas and projects of death, in the usual manner of those deplorable men abandoned to earthly passion. Perhaps he promised himself to murder the others during the night, as seems likely from the violence with which his hand grasps his dagger.  58
  “And all five are sleeping forever under the deadly shade of the Upas, whose fatal seeds have been hurled here by some angry gust from the depths of Javan forests.”  59
  When he had spoken thus, Lockman bowed down, and worshiped God.  60
  And when he had risen, he passed his hand through his beard and went on:—  61
  “The respect due the dead forbids us to leave their bodies a prey to wild beasts. The living judge the living, but the dead belong to God.”  62
  And he loosened the pruning-knife from Xailoun’s belt, with which to dig three graves.  63
  In the first grave he placed the fakir Abhoc.  64
  In the second grave he placed Doctor Abhac.  65
  In the third grave he buried the King of the Sands.  66
  “As for thee, Xailoun,” he soliloquized, “I will bear thee beyond the deadly influence of the tree poison, so that thy friends, if there be any on earth since the Kardouon’s death, can weep without danger at the spot of thy repose. And I will do this also, my brother, because thou didst spread thy mantle over the sleeping Kardouon to preserve him from cold.”  67
  Then Lockman carried Xailoun far away, and dug him a grave in a little ravine full of blossoms, bathed by springs of the desert, under trees whose fronds floating in the wind spread about them only freshness and fragrance.  68
  And when this was done, Lockman passed his hand through his beard a second time, and after reflection, went to fetch the Kardouon which lay dead under the poison-tree of Java.  69
  Then Lockman dug a fifth grave for the Kardouon, beyond Xailoun’s on a slope better exposed to the sun, whose dawning rays arouse the gayety of lizards.  70
  “God guard me from separating in death those who have loved in life,” said Lockman.  71
  And when he had thus spoken, Lockman passed his hand through his beard a third time, and after reflecting went back to the foot of the Upas tree.  72
  There he dug a very deep grave, and buried the treasure.  73
  “This precaution may save the life of a man or a Kardouon,” he said with an inward smile.  74
  Then Lockman, greatly fatigued, went on his way to rest beside Xailoun’s grave.  75
  And he was quite exhausted when he reached it, and falling on the earth commended his soul to God, and died.  76
  This is the story of Lockman the Sage.  77
 
The Angel

  THE NEXT day there came one of the spirits of God which you have seen only in dreams.
  78
  He floated, rose, sometimes seemed lost in the eternal azure, then descended again, balanced himself at heights which thought cannot measure, on large blue wings like a giant butterfly.  79
  As he approached, he waved his golden curls and let himself rock on the currents of air, throwing out his ivory arms and abandoning his head to all the little clouds of heaven.  80
  Then he alighted on the slender boughs without bending a leaf or a blossom, and then he flew with caressing wings around the new-made grave of Xailoun.  81
  “What!” he cried, “is Xailoun dead? Xailoun, whom heaven awaits for his innocence and simplicity?”  82
  And from his large blue wings he dropped a little feather, which suddenly took root and grew into the most beautiful plume ever seen over a royal coffin. This he did to mark the spot.  83
  Then he saw the poet asleep in death as in a joyful dream, his features laughing with peace and happiness.  84
  “My Lockman too,” said the Angel, “desired to grow young again to resemble us, although he had passed only a few seasons among men,—who, alas! have not had time to profit by his lessons. Yes, come, my brother, come with me; awake from death to follow me. Come to eternal day, come to God.”  85
  At the same time he placed a kiss of resurrection on Lockman’s brow, raised him lightly from his bed of moss, and hurried him into a heaven so deep that the eyes of eagles could not follow them.  86
  This is the Angel’s story.  87
 
The End of the Golden Dream

  WHAT I have just told happened infinite ages ago, and the name of the sage Lockman has lingered ever since in the memory of men.
  88
  And ever since, the Upas tree has stretched out the branches whose shadow means death between the waters which flow eternally.  89
  This is the story of the World.  90
 
 
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