546 THE STONE OF THE WISE MEN
like a great clockmaker's workshop, wherein all the clocks were going ' tick, tick ! ' and all the turret clocks striking ' ding dong '. It was unbearable. For a long time his ears held out, but at last all the noise and screaming became too much for one man. There came blackguard boys of sixty years old—for it is not age that does it; they roared and shouted in a way that one could laugh at; but then came gossip, which whispered through all houses, lanes, and streets, right out to the high-way. Falsehood thrust itself forward and played the master ; the bells on the fool's cap jangled and declared they were church bells ; and the noise became too bad for the Hearer, and he thrust his fingers into both ears ; but still he could hear false singing and bad sounds, gossip and idle words, scandal and slander, groaning and moaning without and within. Heaven help us ! He thrust his fingers deeper and deeper into his ears, but at last the drums burst. Now he could hear nothing at all of the good, the true, and the beautiful, for his hearing was to have been the bridge by which he crossed. He became silent and suspicious, trusted no one at last, not even himself, and that is very unfortunate, and, no longer hoping to find and bring home the costly jewel, he gave it up, and gave himself up ; and that was the worst of all. The birds who winged their flight towards the east brought tidings of this, till the news reached the castle in the Tree of the Sun.
' I will try now !' said the third brother. * I have a sharp nose !'
Now that was not said in very good taste ; but it was his way, and one must take him as he was. He had a happy temper, and was a poet, a real poet: he could sing many things that he could not say, and many things struck him far earlier than they occurred to others. ' I can smell fire !' he said ; and he attributed to the sense of smelling, which he possessed in a very high degree, a great power in the region of the beautiful.
* Every fragrant spot in the realm of the beautiful has its frequenters,' he said. ' One man feels at home in the atmosphere of the tavern, among the flaring tallow candles, where the smell of spirits mingles with the fumes of bad