The Necklace Of Tears





By Mrs. Egerton Eastwick.





ONCE, many years ago, there lived in Ombrelande a most beautiful

Princess. Now, Ombrelande is a country which still exists, and in which

many strange things still happen, although it is not to be found in any

map of the world that I know of.



The Princess, at the time the story begins, was little more than a

child, and while her growing beauty was everywhere spoken of, she was

unfortunately still more noted for her selfish and disagreeable nature.

She cared for nothing but her own amusement and pleasure, and gave no

thought to the pain she sometimes inflicted on others in order to

gratify her whims. It must be mentioned, however, as an excuse for her

heartlessness, that, being an only child, she had been spoilt from her

babyhood, and always allowed to have her own way, while those who

thwarted her were punished.



One day the Princess Olga, that was her name, escaped from her governess

and attendants, and wandered into the wood which joined the gardens of

the palace. It was her fancy to be alone; she would not even allow her

faithful dachshund to bear her company.



The air was soft with the coming of spring; the sun was shining, the

songs of the birds were full of gratitude and joy; the most lovely

flowers, in all imaginable hues, turned the earth into a jewelled nest

of verdure.



Olga threw herself down on a bank, bright with green moss and soft as a

downy pillow. The warmth and her wanderings had already wearied her. She

had neglected her morning studies, and left her singing-master waiting

for her in despair in the music-room of the palace, that she might

wander into the wood, and already the pleasure was gone.



She threw herself down on the bank and wished she was at home. There was

one thing, however, of which she never tired, and that was her own

beauty; so now, having nothing to do, and finding the world and the

morning exceedingly tiresome and tame and dull, she unbound her long

golden hair, and spread it all around her like a carpet over the moss

and the flowers, that she might admire its softness and luxuriance, by

way of a change.



She held up the yellow meshes in her hands and drew them through her

fingers, laughing to see the golden lights that played among the silky

waves in the sunlight; then she fell to admiring the small white hands

which held the treasure, holding them up against the light to see their

almost transparent delicacy, and the pretty rose-pink lines where the

fingers met. Certainly she made a charming picture, there in the

sunshine among the flowers: the picture of a lovely innocent child, if

she had been less vain and self-conscious.



Presently she heard a slight rustle of boughs behind her, and looking

round she saw that she was no longer alone. Not many paces away, gazing

at her with admiring wonder, stood a youth in the dress of a beggar, and

over his shoulder looked the face of a young girl, which Olga was forced

to acknowledge as lovely as her own. Now, the forest was the private

property of the King, and the presence of these poor-looking people was

certainly an intrusion.



"What are you doing here?" said Olga haughtily. "Don't you know that you

are trespassing? This wood belongs to the King, and is forbidden to

tramps and beggars."



"We are no beggars, lady," said the youth. He spoke with great

gentleness, but his voice was strong and sweet as a deep-toned bell. "To

us no land is forbidden--and we own allegiance to no one."



"My father will have you put in prison," said Olga angrily. "What is

your name?"



"My name is Kasih."



"And that girl behind you--she is hiding--why does she not come

forward?"



"It is Kasukah--my sister," he said, looking round with a smile; "she is

shy, and frightened, perhaps."



"What outlandish names! You must be gypsies," said Olga rudely, "and

perhaps thieves."



"Indeed, lady, you are mistaken; on the contrary, it is in our power to

bestow upon you many priceless gifts. But we have travelled far to find

you, and are weary; only bid us welcome--let us go with you to the

castle to rest--Kasukah----"



"How dare you speak so to me?" interrupted Olga, in a fury. "To the

castle, indeed--what are you thinking of? There is a poor-house

somewhere, I have heard the people say, maintained by my father's bounty

out of the taxes, you can go there. Go at once--or----"



She raised the little silver-handled dog-whip which hung at her girdle.

To do her justice, she was no coward. Kasukah had quite disappeared; the

boy stood alone looking at Olga with sad, reproachful eyes. For a

moment, she thought what a pity he was so poor and shabby; he had the

face and bearing of a king. But she was too proud to change her tone.



"Or what?" he said.



"I will drive you away," she said defiantly. Still Kasih did not move,

and the next moment she had struck him smartly across the cheek with the

whip.



He made no effort at self-defence or retaliation, only it seemed to her

that she herself felt the pain of the wound. For a few instants she saw

his sorrowful face grown white and stern, and the red, glowing scar

which her whip had caused; then, like Kasukah, he seemed to vanish, and

disappeared among the trees, while where he had stood a sunbeam crossed

the grass.



Olga felt rather scared. She had been certainly very audacious, and it

was odd that the boy should have shown no resentment. After all, she

rather wished she had asked both him and his sister to stay, they might

have proved amusing.






However, it was too late now; she could not call them back; so she

thought she would return to the castle; she was beginning to feel

hungry. So she went leisurely home, and, for the remainder of the day,

proved a little more tractable than usual. She did not forget Kasih and

his sister, and for a time wondered if they would ever seek her again;

but the months went by and she saw them no more.



* * * * *



Now, as Olga grew older, of course the question arose of finding for her

a desirable husband. And one suitor came and another, but none pleased

her; and, indeed, more than one highly eligible young Prince was

frightened away by her haughty manners and violent temper.



The truth was, that in secret she had not forgotten the face of Kasih,

and she sometimes told herself that if she could find among her suitors

one who was at all like him, and was also rich and powerful enough to

give her all she desired in other ways, him she would choose. Kasih was

certainly very handsome, in spite of his beggar's clothes; and, suitably

dressed, he would have been quite adorable. Also, it would be delightful

to find a husband with such a gentle, yielding disposition, who never

thought of resenting anything she said or did.



And one day a suitor came to the palace who really made her heart beat a

little faster than usual at first; he was so like the lost Kasih. But

unfortunately he was only the younger son of a Royal Duke, and could

offer her nothing better than a small, insignificant Principality and an

income hardly sufficient to pay her dressmaker's bills. So it was no use

thinking about him, and he was dismissed with the others. Olga's father

began to think his daughter would never find all she required in a

husband, but would remain for ever in the ancestral castle: as every

year she grew more disagreeable, the prospect did not afford him entire

satisfaction.



At length, however, appeared a very powerful Prince, who peremptorily

demanded her hand. He was a big, strong man, and carried on his wooing

in such a masterful manner that even Olga was a little afraid of him. At

the same time he loaded her with jewels and beautiful presents of all

kinds, brought from his own country. He was said to possess fabulous

wealth; and, partly because she feared him, and partly because of her

pride and ambition, haughty Olga surrendered and promised to become his

wife. Having once gained her consent, Hazil would brook no delay.



The date was immediately fixed, and the grandest possible preparations

made for the wedding. No expense was spared, innumerable guests were

invited, while those less favoured among the people came from far and

near to see the bride's wedding clothes and to bring her presents.

Indeed, the King of Ombrelande was forced to add a new suite of rooms to

the castle to contain the wedding gifts and display them to the best

advantage.



Such a sight as the bridal train had never been seen before, for it was

spangled all over with diamonds so closely that Olga when she moved

looked like a living jewel--and her veil was sprinkled with diamond

dust, which sparkled like myriads of tiny stars.



The evening before the wedding day Olga sat alone in her chamber,

thinking of the magnificence that awaited her, also a little of Hazil,

the bridegroom. She had that day seen Hazil, in a passion, punish, with

his own hands, a servant for disobedience, and the sight had displeased

her. It had been an ugly and unpleasant exhibition, but worse than all,

the sight of the poor man's wounds had recalled that livid mark across

the fair cheek of Kasih which she herself had wrought. The boy's gentle

face, which had become so stern when they parted, the laughing eyes of

Kasukah, quite haunted her to-night. She thought she would like to make

amends for her rudeness; if she knew where they were, she would ask

brother and sister to her wedding. And just as she was so thinking, a

soft tap sounded at the door, and before she could ask who was there

(she thought it must surely be the Queen, her mother, come to bid her a

last good-night, and felt rather displeased at the interruption) the

door opened, and a stranger entered the room.



Olga saw a tall figure, draped from head to foot in a soft darkness that

shrouded her like a cloud, obscuring even her face.



"Who are you?" said Olga, "and what do you want in my private

apartments? Who dared admit you without my leave?"



"I asked admittance of no one, for none can refuse me or bar my way,"

answered the stranger, in a voice like the sighing of soft winds at

night. "My name is Kasuhama--I am the foster-sister of Kasukah and

Kasih, of whom you were just now thinking, and I come to bring you a

wedding gift."



She withdrew her veil slightly as she spoke, and Olga saw a pale,

serene face, sorrowful in expression, and framed with snow-white hair,

but yet bearing a likeness, that was like a memory, to Kasih and

Kasukah.






"I wish," said Olga petulantly, "that Kasih had brought it to-morrow and

been present at our feast. I would have seen that he was properly

attired for the occasion. Your sad face is hardly suitable for a

wedding feast. Shall I ever see him again?"



"As to that, I cannot answer," said Kasuhama gravely; "but your wedding

is no place either for him or Kasukah. As for me--I go everywhere. I am

older in appearance than the others, you see, though, in reality, it is

not so. But that is because they have immortal souls and I have none.

The time will come when I must bid them farewell. We but journey

together for a time."



The air of the room seemed to have become strangely chill and cold, and

Olga shivered. "I am tired," she said, "and I wish to rest. Will you

state your business and leave me?"



Experience had made her less abruptly rude than when she dismissed Kasih

in the wood; also this cold, pale, soulless woman struck her with

something like awe.



"Yes,--I will say farewell to you now. In the future you will know me

better and perhaps learn not to fear me--but I will leave with you the

present I came to bring."



She held out a necklace of pearls more wonderful than even Olga had ever

seen. They were large and round, lustrous and fair; but as Olga took

them in her hands it seemed to her that, in their mysterious depths,

each jewel held imprisoned a living soul.



"Wear them," said Kasuhama; "by them you will remember me."



Almost involuntarily Olga raised her hands and fastened the necklace

around her slender throat. The clasps just met, and the pearls glistened

like dewdrops on her bosom--or were they tears?



But in the centre of the necklace was a vacant space.



"There is one lost!" she said.



"Not lost, but missing," answered Kasuhama softly. "One day the place

will be filled, and the necklace will be complete." And with these words

she waved her hand to Olga, and, drawing her dusky veil around her,

quitted the room as quietly as she had entered.



The ceremonies of the following day passed off without let or hindrance,

and Olga, dazzled by her grandeur, would have thought little of her

visitor of the previous night--would indeed have believed the incident a

dream, a trick of the imagination--but for the necklace. It still

encircled her throat, for her utmost efforts proved unavailing to

unfasten the clasps, and every one stared and marvelled at the wonderful

pearls which seemed endowed with a curious fascination.



Only Prince Hazil was displeased; for he could not bear his bride to

wear jewels not his gift, and that outshone by their lustre any he could

produce; also, he was jealous of the unknown giver. When the wedding was

over, and they were travelling away to the distant castle where the

first weeks of Olga's new life were to be spent, he tried to take the

jewels from their resting-place. Olga smiled, for she knew that even his

great strength would be unavailing, and so it proved; and although on

reaching their destination Hazil sent for all the Court jewellers,

neither then nor at any other time could the most experienced among them

loosen Kasuhama's magic gift from its place.



The months rolled by, and Olga reigned a Queen in her husband's country,

but her life was a sad one. Hazil was often cruel, and it seemed as

though he were bent upon heaping upon her all the contumely and

harshness she had shown to others. Still her proud spirit refused to

yield. She met him with defiance in secret, and openly bore herself with

so much cold haughtiness that no one dared to hint at her trouble, much

less to offer her any sympathy.



But when alone in her chamber she saw again the faces of Kasih and

Kasukah; but more often that of Kasuhama. For the necklace was still

there to remind her; the pearls still shone with mysterious, undimmed

lustre; indeed, they seemed to grow more numerous, and to be woven into

more delicate and intricate designs, as time went on. Still, however,

the place for the central jewel remained unfilled. Often Olga herself

tried with passionate, almost agonising, effort to break their fatal

chain, for every day their weight grew heavier, until she seemed to bear

fetters of iron about her fair throat, and when the pearls touched her

they burned as though the iron were molten.



Still, in public, they were universally admired, and gratified vanity

enabled her to bear the pain and inconvenience without open complaint.



But one day was placed in her arms another treasure--a beautiful living

child, and she was so fair that they called her Pearl, but the Queen

hated the name. The child, however, found a soft place in Hazil's rough

nature; indeed, he idolised her; but Olga rarely saw her little

daughter, and left her altogether to the care of the nurses and

attendants.




(p. 289).]



So little Pearl grew very fragile, and had a wistful look in her blue

eyes, as though waiting for something that never came; for in her

grand nurseries and among all her beautiful playthings she found no

mother-love to perfect and nourish her life.



And all this time Olga had seen no more of Kasih or Kasukah; had,

indeed, almost forgotten what their faces were like. But one night, at

the close of a grand entertainment, she was summoned in haste to the

nursery. The Court physician came to tell her that little Pearl was ill.



Olga was very weary. Never had the necklace seemed so heavy a burden as

that night, or the Court functions so endless. She rose, however, and

followed the physician at once. Hazil, the King, was far away, visiting

a distant part of his great territory; he would be terribly angry if

anything went wrong with little Pearl during his absence.



She reached the room where the child lay on her lace-covered pillows,

very white and small, but with a happy smile on her tiny face, a happy

light in her blue eyes, which looked satisfied at last. But Olga knew

that the smile was not for her, that the child did not recognise her,

would never know her any more.



Some one else stood beside the couch: a stranger with bent head and

loving, out-stretched arms, and little Pearl prattled in baby language

of playthings and flowers and sunlight and green fields. Olga drew near

and watched, helpless and terrified, with a strange despair at her

heart. And soon the little voice grew weaker--but the happy smile

deepened as the blue eyes closed.



* * * * *



And there was a great silence in the nursery. The stranger lifted the

little form in his arms, and as he raised his head Olga saw his face,

and she knew that it was Kasih come at last, for across his cheek still

glowed the red line of the wound which her hand had dealt many years

before. His eyes met hers with the same stern sadness of reproach as

when they had parted--then she remembered no more.




292).]



When the Queen recovered from her swoon they told her that her little

daughter was dead; but she knew that Kasih had taken her. She said no

word and showed few signs of grief, but remained outwardly proud and

cold, though her heart was wrung with a pain and fear she could not

understand. She was full of wrath against Kasih, who, she thought, had

taken this way of avenging the old insult she had offered him. Yet the

sorrowful look in his eyes haunted her.



The pearls about her neck pressed upon her with a heavier weight, and in

her sleep she saw them as in a vision, and in their depths she discerned

strange pictures: faces she had known years ago and long since

forgotten, the faces of those whom her pride and harshness had caused to

suffer, who had appealed to her for love and pity and were denied.



And then in her dream she understood that the pearls were in truth the

tears of those she had made sorrowful, kept and guarded by Kasih in his

treasure-house, but given to her by Kasuhama to be her punishment.



Before many days had passed, the King Hazil returned, and when he

learned that his little daughter was dead, he summoned the Queen to his

presence. Olga went haughtily, for she dared not altogether disobey.

Then Hazil loaded her with reproaches, and in his anger he told her

many, many hard things, and the words sank deep into her heart. It

seemed, presently, that she could bear no more, and hardly knowing what

she did, she cast herself at his feet and prayed for mercy.



She asked him to remember that the child had been hers also--that she

had loved it. But Hazil, in his bitterness, laughed in her face and told

her she was a monster, that it was for lack of her love that the child

had died, that she had never loved anything--not even herself. He

turned away to nurse his own grief, and Olga dragged herself up and went

away to the silent room, and knelt by the little couch where she had

seen Kasih take away her child.



And there at length the blessed tears fell, for she was humbled at last,

and sorry, and quite desolate and alone. And it seemed to her that

through her tears she once more saw Kasih, and that he held towards her

the little Pearl, more beautiful than ever, and the child put its arms

about her neck, and she was comforted.



Well, from that day the life of the Queen was changed. When next she

looked at the pearl necklace she found that a jewel, more beautiful than

any of the others, had been added to it; and she knew that the tear of

her humiliation had filled the vacant place.



And henceforth she often saw the face of Kasih: near the bed of the

dying, beside all who needed consolation, kindness, and love, there she

met him constantly. Near him sometimes she caught a glimpse of bright

Kasukah, but for a while, more often of Kasuhama.



The face of the white-haired sister, however, had grown very gentle and

kind, and she whispered of a time when Kasukah should take her place for

ever--for Love and Joy are eternal, but Sorrow has an end. And with

every act of unselfish kindness and love that the Queen Olga performed

the weight and burden of the necklace grew less, until the day that it

fell from her of its own accord, and she was able to give it back to

Kasuhama. And Hazil, the King, seeing how greatly Olga was changed, in

time grew gentle towards her, and loved her; for Kasuhama softened his

heart.





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