522 THE THORNY ROAD OF HONOUR
taken refuge. A poor corpse is carried out of the town gate, and the funeral procession causes the caravan to halt. The dead man is he whom they have been sent to seek— Firdusi—who has wandered the thorny road of honour even to the end.
The African, with blunt features, thick lips, and woolly hair, sits on the marble steps of the palace in the capital of Portugal, and begs : he is the faithful slave of Camoens, and but for him, and for the copper coins thrown to him by the passers-by, his master, the poet of the ' Lusiad', would die of hunger. Now, a costly monument marks the grave of Camoens.
There is a new picture.
Behind the iron grating a man appears, pale as death, with long unkempt beard.
' I have made a discovery,' he says, ' the greatest that has been made for centuries ; and they have kept me locked up here for more than twenty years !'
Who is the man ?
' A madman,' replies the keeper of the madhouse. ' What whimsical ideas these lunatics have ! He imagines that one can propel things by means of steam.'
It is Salomon de Caus, the discoverer of the power of steam, whose theory, expressed in dark words, was not understood by Richelieu—and he dies in the madhouse !
Here stands Columbus, whom the street boys used once to follow and jeer, because he wanted to discover a new world—and he has discovered it. The clash of bells sounds to celebrate his triumphant return; but the clash of the bells of envy soon drowns the others. The discoverer of a world, he who lifted the American gold land from the sea, and gave it to his King—he is rewarded with iron chains. He wishes that these chains may be placed in his coffin, for they witness to the world of the way in which a man's contemporaries reward good service.
One picture after another comes crowding on; the thorny path of honour and of fame is over-filled.
Here in dark night sits the man who measured the mountains in the moon ; he who forced his way out into the endless space, among stars and planets ; he, the mighty man who understood the spirit of nature, and felt the earth