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CHAPTER XIV

And Marco Polo was brought into the presence. And among all assembled there you could hear a pin drop.

At the north end of the great hall sat the Khan himself, and Marco Polo nearly dropped with surprise; for where he expected a great, magnificent figure of a man, with majesty shining from his eyes, he saw only a pleasant, bearded man, not quarter so well dressed as the meanest servant on the room, and a fine, welcoming smile in his face. His throne was elevated so that his feet were on the level of the heads of the kinsmen of the Blood Royal beneath him, and they in silk and ermine and fine brocades and jewels. And beneath these were the barons and dukes and knights. And beneath these were the captains of the fighting men, three thousand and three. And beneath these were the musicians and the sorcerers. And behind Kubla Khan, very big, very erect, stood his three great servants, the Keeper of the Hunting Leopards, the Keeper of the Speaking Drums, and the Keeper of the Khan's Swords.

And beside Kubla Khan, on a little throne, sat Golden Bells. . . And it was the sight of her more than the sight of the great assembly that dumbed the words in his mouth. And Kubla was smiling at him, and she was smiling, too.

And Kubla saw there was something wrong with him, that there was embarrassment on him and he rose from his: throne.

"There is welcome for you here, Marco Polo, and no enmity. There is interest, in and eagerness for your message. There is none here will criticize you or make it hard for you. Let there be no shame on you in speaking before so many people. Say what you have to say as if there were nobody here, if that will help you, barring myself and the little daughter beside me. . ."

"O Emperor," the words came back to Marco Polo, "and ye, great princes, dukes, and marquises, counts, knights, and burgesses, and people of all degrees who desire the light of the world, grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ!

"The message I have to give you, I shall give in the words of Him, Whose perfect message it is:

"'Beati pauperes spiritu, -- Blessed are the poor in spirit.

"'Quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum, -- for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"'Beati mites, -- Blessed are the meek. . .'"

And Marco Polo went on and quoted for them the words that were spoken on the Mount in Galilee. And they listened to him with great civility and attention. And little Golden Bells leaned forward, with her chin on her hands, and Kubla leaned back in his throne, with his eyes half closed.

"'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil, but whoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.'" And at this the great Khan looked up puzzled, and a movement went through the fighting men in the hall. But wee Golden Bells never budged a minute, and Marco Polo went on:

"'Et factum est; cum consummasset Jesus verba haec, -- And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine.'

"I shall now tell you of the life and death of the Lord Jesus. . ."

He told them of the birth in Bethlehem, and of the teaching on the hills, and the poets nodded their heads; and he told them of the cleansing of the lepers and of the casting out of devils and the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the magicians wondered; and he told them of the betrayal by Judas with a kiss, and the captains-at-arms shuffled in their seats; and he told them of the scourging, and of the crowning with thorns, and the great Khan snicked his dagger in and out of the sheath. And a mist of tears came into the eyes of Golden Bells.

And he told them of the crucifixion between two thieves, and a great oath ripped from the beard of Kubla Khan, and the silver tears ran from the eyes of Golden Bells.

"'And on the third day He arose from the dead. . .'"

And a great shout came from the throat of Kubla Khan, and he stood up.

"He arose from among the dead men, I'll warrant; He showed himself to the Roman Pilate in all His power and majesty -- "

"No," said Marco Palo.

"Then He showed himself to the thousands who had seen him die upon the gallows tree!"

"No," said Marco Polo.

"Who saw Him, then?"

"His twelve Apostles and they in a little room!"

And Kubla Khan sat down suddenly and said no more. There was a moment's murmur of wonder among the assembly, and then silence. And Marco's heart fell. And he was aware of two things, of the great politeness of the Chinese people and of Golden Bell's pitying eyes. . .




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