Messer Marco Polo
When Kubla Khan dismissed the assembly, and he took Marco Polo into a
sitting-room, and Golden Bells came with them.
"And what did you think, sir, of what I said? And can you not see, sir, the truth
that's in me?"
"Well, now, laddie," said the great Khan, "when we come to examine this sermon
you quoted to us, what is there in it but the rule of the righteous man? We've had
a great thinker and pious man of our own, Confucius. I'm not a reading man,"
says he, "but I've got an idea," says he, "that there isn't a thing you said but is
embraced in the Analects. And if it isn't it'll be in the teachings of the Lord
"Ah, but, sir," Marco Polo said, "You'll have to admit that He of Whom I speak
was the true God made man."
"Now, laddie, remember I'm an old man, set in my head and my ways, and I've
been used to one belief so long it would be hard changing. So don't press me
now; don't press me, I ask you."
"Ah, sir," pleaded Marco Polo, "it's terrible to think of, as great a prince as you to
be in the black spaces outside of heaven because you wouldn't accept the truth."
"Well, maybe they won't be so hard on one, my dear lad. When my time comes
and I rap on the gate of your heaven, maybe they'll say: 'It's only old Kubla, the
soldier, is in it. He knows devil and all about religion, but his fights were fair
fights, and he never hit a man when he was down. He had a soft heart for wee
children and he was easy on horses. Sure, what's the difference? Let him in!'
And if they say no, I'll tuck the old nicked claymore under my arm, and be off to
where the other old fighters are."
"I see, sir, that there was little success to my message."
"I wouldn't say that," said Kubla Khan. "Wait a little until you perform miracles
before the people to prove your truth. You'll know better then."
"Ah, sir," said Marco Polo, "I can perform no miracles. 'Tis only a saint can
perform miracles, and I couldn't lace a saint's shoes. I have no miracles."
"Oh, well, now, my dear boy," said Kubla Khan, "I hate to tell you, but there's no
use going further. Sure you'd be up against the sorcerers of the world. They'd
ask you for a sign, and you'd have no sign, and they'd have signs in abundance. I
wouldn't think of letting you go against them. Fair play's a jewel, and you wouldn't
have a chance. There's the Red Pope from Tibet and there's the Black Magician
from Korea and a hundred minor ones, and the Warlock of the North, from the
Islands of Ice, who governs the hail and the snow. Child, I wouldn't let you get
into the same ring with them. They'd ruin you."
"But, sir, wasn't it a great miracle of the Lord's, my rescue in the Gobi Desert?"
"A miracle of the Lord's! A miracle of Golden Bells here. It was her magician saw
you, and she had the message put on the drums, and the desert patrols went to
seek you. It was herself here, wee Golden Bells." And Golden Bells' mouth gave
a smile of shame that his thought should be broken in his mind.