TANT' SANNIE was stewing kraut in the old Dutch saucepan. The scorching rays of the African sun were beating down upon BONAPARTE BLENKINS who was doing his best to be sun-like by beating WALDO. His nose was red and disagreeable. He was something like HUCKLEBERRY FINN's Dauphin, an amusing, callous, cruel rogue, but less resourceful. TANT' SANNIE laughed; it was so pleasant to see a German boy beaten black and blue. But the Hottentot servants merely gaped. It was their custom.
But in the middle distance Life was playing marbles with the Unknown. And the Unknown said unto Life, "Give me an alley-tor." But Life replied, "Nay, for the commoneys are lying well, and the thumb of him that aimeth is seasoned unto the stroke." And the Unknown beat his sable wings together, and one black feather flitted far into the breast of the day and fell to earth. And there came a fair-haired Child plucking flowers in the desert with brows bent in thought.
And Life said unto the Child, "Play with me."
And the Unknown said, "Play with me."
But the Child raised its soft hand slowly and the tender fingers grew apart, and its thumb was poised in thought upon its nose, and it spake not at all. And the feather flitted far, far over the waste, and men came forth and gazed upon it, but it heeded them not.
Then said Life, "I am strong. Kings have need of me and earth is my dominion." But the Unknown gathered up the scattered marbles, concealing them gently, and answered only this—"I am a greater than Life."
And the Child strayed onwards and the feather flitted, and TANT' SANNIE still stewed kraut in the old Dutch saucepan. And BONAPARTE BLENKINS was glad.CHAPTER II.
Cruelty, cruelty, cruelty—all is cruelty! Boys are beaten; oxen are stabbed till the blood bursts forth; happy, industrious, dung-collecting beetles are bitten in two by careless, happy, beetle-collecting dogs—everything is wicked and cruel. The Kaffir has beautiful legs, but he will kick his wife, and TANT' SANNIE, alas! will not be there to drop a pickle-tub on his head. And over everything hangs that inscrutable charm which hovers for ever for the human intellect over the incomprehensible and shadowy. Omne ignotum pro mirifico, I might say, but I prefer the longer phrase.
And I stood at the gate of Heaven, I and TANT' SANNIE; and we spoke to everybody quite affably; and they all had time to listen to what we said, and to make suitable replies.
And I said, "Are we all here?"
And she said, "Not all."
And I said, "The absent are always in the wrong."
And she said, "I have heard that in French."
And I said, "Is not that impertinent?"
And she said, "No."
And a great Light fell across her face, as though a palm had smitten it, and the name of the palm was Hand, and its fruits were fingers five.
And again I addressed myself in terms of familiarity to the Ever-lasting, and I planted a book upon the clouds, where eight children lay prone with bees flying about their childish bonnets.
And there came a knock at my door....