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VIII. The Land of the Lotus

But Umra-Singh rose out of the water like a fowl, and saw the Land of the Lotus away on the sea before him. And he shouted for joy, and began to swim in that direction. And he swam on all day, and at last, though with difficulty, he reached the shore, when his strength was almost gone. And he crept up out of the water, as the sun was going down; and overcome with weariness, he lay down, there where he came up out of the sea, and fell asleep. And all night long he slept, and all day; and when the moon had risen again, full and round, as if to see whether he was still there, he awoke.

And then he stood up, and rubbed his eyes, and exclaimed: Ha! now I am at my journey's end, and all its dangers are gone like dreams. And this

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is that wonderful Land of the Lotus of the Sun, of which no one in Indirálayá had ever heard! So now that I am here, what remains for me to do, but to leave it, and go back again as quickly as possible. For I desired to find it, only to say that I had been there. And yet when I return, who will believe me? It were better, now that I am here, to examine it, and learn its peculiarities, that I may not twice meet with the treatment due to impostors.

So he went up from the shore, and through the streets of the city, that lay before him, black and white, in the rays of the silver moon. And he met nobody, but it was empty, and dark as a barren womb, and silent as a stone incarnation of the spirit of death. And as he wandered up and down, he came at last to a great palace, whose doors stood wide open, as much as to say: Come in. So he went in, and passed along, wondering, with echoing steps, from room to room. Then on a sudden he entered a door, and found himself in a vast hall, whose walls were pierced with tall windows, through which the moonlight fell, cold as camphor, on moon-stones that hung in clusters from the roof. And from them the nectar fell slowly, drop by drop, upon the floor. And at the far end of the room,

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on a golden couch, he saw lying a dead body, covered with a white pall.

Then he said to himself: What is this wonder, and who can it be that lies here, alone in this empty hall? And he moved on slowly, through the lights of the windows and the shadows of the walls, till he came up to the end of the hall, and stood beside the couch. And he stooped down, and lifted up the edge of the pall, and uncovered the face, and looked, and to! it was the face of Shrí.

And Umra-Singh was so astounded, that he leaped into the air, and uttered a cry: and he let his sword fall with a crash upon the crystal floor. And he said to himself: Is it a dream, or is it an illusion? Lo! I left her living in Indirálayá, and I have travelled over the three worlds, and here at the end of space I find her again, lying dead in this empty hall!

So he stood, like a picture on a wall, gazing in silence at the face of Shrí, while the night wore away, and the moon travelled on, and the nectar from the moonstones fell slowly, drop by drop, upon the ground, and the shadows moved round upon the floor. And at last, after a long while, he came to himself. And he let the pall fall from his

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hand, recovering the face. And he stooped down, and took up his sword, and went slowly out of that strange hall, and sat down on the steps of a marble tank, and fell into a waking dream. And as he gazed into vacancy, he saw before him the blue ocean of the eyes of Shrí; and his memory echoed with faint murmurs of the sound of drums and the voices of criers; and they filled his soul with whispers coming from an infinite distance across the years of separation, until at length the sun rose.

Then Umra-Singh rose up also, and he struck his forehead with his hand. And he exclaimed: I cannot tell, whether it is reality, or whether it is a dream. But this I know, that now I must get back without delay to Indirálayá, and cross, somehow or other, over that sea, and that terrible desert, and through that hideous wood, and tell my story to the King, and claim my bride. But first I will bathe in yonder pool: for my heart is heavy, and my head aches, for all that I have endured during the night, and all that I have seen.

And he went down the steps, and plunged into the waters of the pool.

Next: IX. Recognition