The End of "The King's Messenger"

by F. Marion Crawford


When White Wolf Publishing released their paperback edition of F. Marion Crawford's WANDERING GHOSTS (UK- UNCANNY TALES) as FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE, many budget-conscious collectors like myself were delighted to finally be able to own a copy of the book. A welcome "bonus" of the book was the inclusion of "The King's Messenger" a weird tale that was somehow ommited from all earlier editions of the collection. Sadly, the freshly included story was published without the final page, leaving the reader in limbo. Presented here is the missing part of the story, in the hopes that other readers of the White Wolf edition will find closure. This text was taken from the 1989 Necronomicon Press chapbook edition of "The King's Messenger", which is still in print and at $1.50 is a cheap way to "complete" your copy of FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE. Recently Tartarus Press released a new edition of UNCANNY TALES that is the definitive edition of the weird tales of F. Marion Crawford.

He talked well; more than well, marvelously; for before long even the lady with the hard face was listening spellbound, with the rest of us, to his stories of nations and tales of men, brillant descriptions, anecdotes of heroism and tenderness that were each a perfect coin from the mint of humanity, with dashes of daring wit, glimpses of a profound insight into the great mystery of the beyond, and now and then a manly comment on life that came straight from the heart: never, in all my long experience, have I heard poet, or scholar, or soldier, or ruler of men talk as he did that evening. And as I listened I was more and more amazed that such a man should be but a simple King's Messenger, as he said he was, earning a poor gentleman's living by carrying his majesty's despatches from London to the ends of the earth, and I made some sad and sober inward reflections on the vast difference between the gift of talking supremely well and the genius a man must have to accomplish even one little thing that may endure in history, in literature, or in art.

"Do you wonder that I love him?" whispered Miss Lorna.

Even in the whisper I heard the glorious pride of the woman who loves altogether and wholly believes that there is no one like her chosen man.

"No," I answered, "for it is no wonder. I only hope-----" I stopped, feeling that it would be foolish and unkind to express the doubt I felt.

"You hope that I may not be disappointed," said Miss Lorna, still almost in a whisper. "That was what you were going to say, I'm sure."

I nodded, in spite of myself, and met her eyes; they were full of a wonderful light.

"No one was ever disappointed in him," she murmured---"no living being, neither man, nor woman, nor child. With him I shall have peace and love without end."

"Without end?"

"Yes, forever and ever!"

After dinner we scattered through the great rooms in the soft evening light of mid-June, and by and by I was standing at an open window, with the mistress of the house, looking across the garden.

In the distance, Lorna was walking slowly away down the broad avenue with a tall man; and while they were still in sight, though far away, I am sure I saw his arm steal round her as if he were drawing her on, and her head bent lovingly to his shoulder; and so they glided away into the twilight and disappeared.

Then at last I turned to my hostess. "Do you mind telling me the name of that man who came in late and talked so well?" I asked. "You all seemed to know him like an old friend."

She looked at me in profound surprise. "Do you mean to say that you do not know who he is?" she asked.

"No. I never met him before. He is a most extraordinary man to be only a King's Messenger."

"He is indeed the King's Messenger, my dear friend. His name is Death."

I dreamed this dream one afternoon last summer, dozing in my chair on deck, under the double awning, when the Alda was anchored off Goletta, in sight of Carthage, and the cool north breeze was blowing down the deep gulf of Tunis. I must have been wakened by some slight sound from a boat alongside, for when I opened my eyes my man was standing a little way off, evidently waiting till I should finish my nap. He brought me a telegram which had just come on board, and I opened it rather drowsily, not expecting any particular news.

It was from England, from a very dear friend.

Lorna died suddenly last night at Church Hadley.

That was all; the dream had been a message.

"With him I shall have peace and love without end."

Thank God, I hear those words in her own voice, whenever I think of her.

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