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him, and said: ‘Who art thou?’ ‘I am the king,’ came the answer, with placid

‘Welcome, king!’ cried the hermit, with enthusiasm. Then, bustling about with
feverish activity, and constantly saying ‘Welcome, welcome,’ he arranged his
bench, seated the king on it, by the hearth, threw some fagots on the fire, and
finally fell to pacing the floor, with a nervous stride.

‘Welcome! Many have sought sanctuary here, but they were not worthy, and
were turned away. But a king who casts his crown away, and despises the vain
splendors of his office, and clothes his body in rags, to devote his life to holiness
and the mortification of the flesh-he is worthy, he is welcome!- here shall he
abide all his days till death come.’ The king hastened to interrupt and explain,
but the hermit paid no attention to him-did not even hear him apparently, but
went right on with his talk, with a raised voice and a growing energy. ‘And thou
shalt be at peace here. None shall find out thy refuge to disquiet thee with
supplications to return to that empty and foolish life which God hath moved
thee to abandon.

Thou shalt pray here; thou shalt study the Book; thou shalt meditate upon the
follies and delusions of this world, and upon the sublimities of the world to
come; thou shalt feed upon crusts and herbs, and scourge thy body with whips
daily, to the purifying of thy soul. Thou shalt wear a hair shirt next thy skin;
thou shalt drink water only; and thou shalt be at peace; yes, wholly at peace; for
whoso comes to seek thee shall go his way again baffled; he shall not find thee,
he shall not molest thee.’

The old man, still pacing back and forth, ceased to speak aloud, and began to
mutter. The king seized this opportunity to state his case; and he did it with an
eloquence inspired by uneasiness and apprehension. But the hermit went on
muttering, and gave no heed. And still muttering, he approached the king and
said, impressively: ‘’Sh! I will tell you a secret!’ He bent down to impart it, but
checked himself, and assumed a listening attitude. After a moment or two he
went on tiptoe to the window-opening, put his head out and peered around in
the gloaming, then came tiptoeing back again, put his face close down to the
king’s and whispered: ‘I am an archangel!’ The king started violently, and said
to himself, ‘Would God I were with the outlaws again; for lo, now am I the
prisoner of a madman!’ His apprehensions were heightened, and they showed
plainly in his face. In a low, excited voice, the hermit continued: ‘I see you feel
my atmosphere! There’s awe in your face! None may be in this atmosphere and
not be thus affected; for it is the very atmosphere of heaven. I go thither and
return, in the twinkling of an eye. I was made an archangel on this very spot, it
is five years ago, by angels sent from heaven to confer that awful dignity. Their
presence filled this place with an intolerable brightness. And they knelt to me,
king! yes, they knelt to me! for I was greater than they. I have walked in the
courts of heaven, and held speech with the patriarchs. Touch my hand-be not
afraid-touch it. There-now thou hast touched a hand which has been clasped by
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