THE NIGHTINGALE 235
the whole nation. The Chinese were really fond of their Emperor, and now he was ill, and couM not, it was said, live much longer. Already a new Emperor had been chosen, and the people stood out in the street and asked the cavaher how their old Emperor did.
' P ! ' said he, and shook his head.
Cold and pale lay the Emperor in his great gorgeous bed ; the whole court thought him dead, and each one ran to pay homage to the new ruler. The chamberlains ran out to talk it over, and the ladies'-maids had a great coffee party. All about, in all the halls and passages, cloth had been laid down so that no footstep could be heard, and therefore it was quiet there, quite quiet. But the Emperor was not dead yet : stiff and pale he lay on the gorgeous bed with the long velvet curtains and the heavy gold tassels ; high up, a window stood open, and the moon shone in upon the Emperor and the artificial bird.
The poor Emperor could scarcely breathe ; it was just as if something lay upon his chest : he opened his eyes, and then he saw that it was Death who sat upon his chest, and had put on his golden crown, and held in one hand the Emperor's sword, and in the other his beautiful banner. And all around, from among the folds of the splendid velvet curtains, strange heads peered forth ; a few very ugly, the rest quite lovely and mild. These were all the Emperor's bad and good deeds, that looked upon him now that Death sat upon his heart.
I Do you remember this ? ' whispered one after the other, * Do you remember that ? ' and then they told him so much that the perspiration ran from his forehead.
II did not know that ! ' said the Emperor. ' Music ! music ! the great Chinese drum ! ' he cried, * so that I need not hear all they say ! '
And they continued speaking, and Death nodded like a Chinaman to all they said.
1 Music ! music ! ' cried the Emperor. ' You little precious golden bird, sing, sing ! I have given you gold and costly presents ; I have even hung my golden slipper around your neck—sing now, sing ! '
But the bird stood still; no one was there to wind him up,and he could not sing without that; but Death continued