The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth

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4.

“They say that we must part,” the Princess said to her lover.

“But why?” he cried. “What new folly have these people got into their heads?”

“Do you know,” she asked, “that to love me— is high treason?”

“My dear,” he cried; “but does it matter? What is their right— right without a shadow of reason— and their treason and their loyalty to us?” “You shall hear,” she said, and told him of the things that had been told to her.

“It was the queerest little man who came to me with a soft, beautifully modulated voice, a softly moving little gentleman who sidled into the room like a cat and put his pretty white hand up so, whenever he had anything significant to say. He is bald, but not of course nakedly bald, and his nose and face are chubby rosy little things, and his beard is trimmed to a point in quite the loveliest way. He pretended to have emotions several times and made his eyes shine. You know he is quite a friend of the real royal family here, and he called me his dear young lady and was perfectly sympathetic even from the beginning. ’My dear young lady,’ he said, ’you know—you mustn’t,’ several times, and then, ‘You owe a duty.’”

“Where do they make such men?”

“He likes it,” she said.

“But I don’t see— ”

“He told me serious things.”

“You don’t think,” he said, turning on her abruptly, “that there’s anything in the sort of thing he said?”

“There’s something in it quite certainly,” said she.

“You mean—?”

“I mean that without knowing it we have been trampling on the most sacred conceptions of the little folks. We who are royal are a class apart. We are worshipped prisoners, processional toys. We pay for worship by losing— our elementary freedom. And I was to have married that Prince— You know nothing of him though. Well, a pigmy Prince. He doesn’t matter… . It seems it would have strengthened the bonds between my country and another. And this country also was to profit. Imagine it!— strengthening the bonds!”

“And now?”

“They want me to go on with it— as though there was nothing between us two.”

“Nothing!”

“Yes. But that isn’t all. He said— ”

“Your specialist in Tact?”

“Yes. He said it would be better for you, better for all the giants, if we two— abstained from conversation. That was how he put it.”

“But what can they do if we don’t?”

“He said you might have your freedom.”

“I!”

“He said, with a stress, ’My dear young lady, it would be better, it would be more dignified, if you parted, willingly.’ That was all he said. With a stress on willingly.”

“But—! What business is it of these little wretches, where we love, how we love? What have they and their world to do with us?”

“They do not think that.”

“Of course,” he said, “you disregard all this.”

“It seems utterly foolish to me.”

“That their laws should fetter us! That we, at the first spring of life, should be tripped by their old engagements, their aimless institutions I Oh—! We disregard it.”

“I am yours. So far— yes.”

“So far? Isn’t that all?”

“But they— If they want to part us— ”

“What can they do?”

“I don’t know. What can they do?” “Who cares what they can do, or what they will do? I am yours and you are mine. What is there more than that? I am yours and you are mine— for ever. Do you think I will stop for their little rules, for their little prohibitions, their scarlet boards indeed!— and keep from you?”

“Yes. But still, what can they do?”

“You mean,” he said, “what are we to do?”

“Yes.”

“We? We can go on.”

“But if they seek to prevent us?”

He clenched his hands. He looked round as if the little people were already coming to prevent them. Then turned away from her and looked about the world. “Yes,” he said. “Your question was the right one. What can they do?”

“Here la this little land,” she said, and stopped.

He seemed to survey it all. “They are everywhere.”

“But we might— ”

“Whither?”

“We could go. We could swim the seas together. Beyond the seas— ”

“I have never been beyond the seas.”

“There are great and desolate mountains amidst which we should seem no more than little people, there are remote and deserted valleys, there are hidden lakes and snow-girdled uplands untrodden by the feet of men. There— ”

“But to get there we must fight our way day after day through millions and millions of mankind.”

“It is our only hope. In this crowded land there is no fastness, no shelter. What place is there for us among these multitudes? They who are little can hide from one another, but where are we to hide? There is no place where we could eat, no place where we could sleep. If we fled— night and day they would pursue our footsteps.”

A thought came to him.

“There is one place,” he said, “even in this island.”

“Where?”

“The place our Brothers have made over beyond there. They have made great banks about their house, north and south and east and west; they have made deep pits and hidden places, and even now— one came over to me quite recently. He said— I did not altogether heed what he said then. But he spoke of arms. It may be—­there— we should find shelter… .

“For many days,” he said, after a pause, “I have not seen our Brothers… Dear! I have been dreaming, I have been forgetting! The days have passed, and I have done nothing but look to see you again … I must go to them and talk to them, and tell them of you and of all the things that hang over us. If they will help us, they can help us. Then indeed we might hope. I do not know how strong their place is, but certainly Cossar will have made it strong. Before all this— before you came to me, I remember now— there was trouble brewing. There was an election— when all the little people settle things, by counting heads. It must be over now. There were threats against all our race— against all our race, that is, but you. I must see our Brothers. I must tell them all that has happened between us, and all that threatens now.”

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