THE NIGHTINGALE 229
chair, and read, and read : every moment he nodded his head, for it pleased him to peruse the masterly descriptions of the city, the palace, and the garden. ' But the Nightingale is the best of all,' it stood written there.
' What's that ?' exclaimed the Emperor. ' I don't know the Nightingale at all ! Is there such a bird in my empire, and even in my garden ? I've never heard of that. To think that I should have to learn such a thing for the first time from books ! '
And hereupon he called his cavalier. This cavalier was so grand that if any one lower in rank than himself dared to speak to him, or to ask him any question, he answered nothing but ' P !'—and that meant nothing.
' There is said to be a wonderful bird here called a Nightingale ! ' said the Emperor. ' They say it is the best thing in all my great empire. Why have I never heard anything about it ? '
' I have never heard him named,' replied the cavalier. ' He has never been introduced at court.'
' I command that he shall appear this evening, and sing before me,' said the Emperor. ' All the world knows what I possess, and I do not know it myself ! '
' I have never heard him mentioned,' said the cavalier. ' I will seek for him. I will find him.'
But where was he to be found ? The cavalier ran up and down all the staircases, through halls and passages, but no one among all those whom he met had heard talk of the nightingale. And the cavalier ran back to the Emperor, and said that it must be a fable invented by the writers of books.
' Your Imperial Majesty cannot believe how much is written that is fiction, besides something that they call the black art.'
' But the book in which I read this,' said the Emperor, ' was sent to me by the high and mighty Emperor of Japan, and therefore it cannot be a falsehood. I will hear the Nightingale ! It must be here this evening ! It has my imperial favour ; and if it does not come, all the court shall be trampled upon after the court has supped ! '
* Tsing-pe ! ' said the cavalier ; and again he ran up and down all the staircases, and through all the halls and