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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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“Dust to dust.”


AT the little quay in the town many boats were lading and unlading, and many setting their sails to go southward with their loads of eggs or of birds, of flowers, of fruit or of herbage; all smelling of summer rain and the odours of freshly ploughed earths turned up with the nest of the lark and the root of the cowslip laid bare in them.

She lost herself in its little busy crowd, and learned what she needed without any asking, in turn, question of her.

Arslàn had sailed at sunrise.

There was a little boat, with an old man in it, loaded with Russian violets from a flower‐farm.

The old man was angered and in trouble: the lad who steered for him had failed him, and the young men and boys on the canals were all too busy to be willing too the voyage for the wretched pittance he offered. She heard, and leaned towards him.

“Do you go the way to Paris?”

The old man nodded.

“I will steer for you, then,” she said to him; and leaped down amongst his fragrant freight. He was a stranger to her, and let her be. She did for him as well as another, since she said that she knew those waters well.

He was in haste, and, without more words, he loosened his sail, and cut his moor‐rope, and set his little vessel adrift down the water‐ways of the town, the violets filling the air with their odours and blue as the eyes of a child that wakes smiling.

All the old familiar streets, all the dusky gateways and dim passages, all the ropes on which the lanterns and the page: 393 linen hung, all the wide carved stairways water‐washed, all the dim windows that the women filled with pots of ivy and the song of birds,—she was drifting from them with every pulse of the tide, never again to return; but she looked at them without seeing them, indifferent, and having no memory of them; her brain, and her heart, and her soul were with the boat that she followed.

It was the day of the weekly market.

The broad flat‐bottomed boats were coming in at sunrise, in each some cargo of green food or of farm produce: a strong girl rowing with bare arms, and the sun catching the white glint of her head‐gear. Boys with coils of spotted birds’ eggs, children with lapsful of wood‐gathered primroses, old women nursing a wicker cage of cackling hens or hissing geese, mules and asses, shaking their bells and worsted tassels, bearing their riders high on sheepskin saddles,—these all went by her on the river, or on the towing‐path, or on the broad high road that ran for a space by the water’s edge.

All of these knew her well; all of these sometime of another had jeered her, jostled her, flouted her, or fled from her. But no one stopped her. No one cared enough for her to care even to wonder where she went.

She glided out of the town, and along the banks she knew so well, and passed the wood and the orchards of Yprès. But what at another time would have had pain for her, and held her with the bonds of a sad familiarity, now scarcely moved her. One great grief and one great passion had drowned all these lesser woes, and scorched to ashes all slighter memories.

All day long they sailed.

At noon the old man gave her a little fruit and a crust as part of her wage; she tried to eat them, knowing she would want all her strength.

They left the course of the stream that she knew, and sailed further than she had ever sailed; passed towns whose bells were ringing, and noble bridges gleaming in the sun, and water‐mills black and gruesome, and bright orchards and vineyards heavy with the promise of fruit. She knew none of them. There were only the water flowing under the keel, and the blue sky above, with the rooks circling in it, which had the look of friends to her.

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The twilight fell; still the wind served, and still they held on; the mists came, white and thick, and stars rose, and the voices from the shores sounded strangely, with here and there a note of music or the deep roll of a drum.

So she drifted out of the old life into an unknown world. But she never once looked back. Why should she?—He had gone before.

When it was quite night, they drew near to a busy town, whose lights glittered by hundreds and thousands on the bank. There were many barges and small boats at anchor in its wharves, hanging out lanterns at their mast‐heads.

The old man bade her steer his boat amongst them, and with a cord he made it fast.

“This is Paris?” she asked, breathlessly.

The old man laughed.

“Paris is days’ sail away.”

“I asked you if you went to Paris?”

The old man laughed again.

“I said I came the Paris way. So I have done. Land.”

Her face set with an anger that made him wince, dull though his conscience was.

“You cheated me,” she said, briefly; and she climbed the boat’s side, and shaking the violets off her, set her foot upon the pier, not stooping to waster more words.

But a great terror fell on her.

She had thought that the boat would bring her straight to Paris; and, once in Paris, she had thought that it would be as easy to trace his steps as it had been in the little town that she had left. She had had no sense of distance—no knowledge of the size of cities; the width, and noise, and hurry, and confusion of this one waterside town made her helpless and stupid.

She stood like a young lost dog upon the flags of the landing‐place, not knowing whither to go, nor what to do.

The old man, busied in unlading his violets into the wicker kreels of the women waiting for them, took no notice of her. He had used her so long as he had wanted her.

There were incessant turmoil, outcry, and uproar round the landing‐stairs, where large cargoes of beetroot, cabbages, and fish were being put on shore. The buyers and the sellers screamed and swore; the tawny light of oil‐lamps page: 395 flickered over their furious faces; the people jostled her, pushed her, cursed her, for being in the way. She shrank back in bewilderment and disgust, and walked feebly away from the edge of the river, trying to think, trying to get back her old health and her old force.

The people of the streets were too occupied to take any heed of her. Only one ragged little boy danced before her a moment, shrieking, “The gipsy! the gipsy! Good little fathers, look to your pockets!”

But she was too used to the language of abuse to be moved by it. She went on, as though she were deaf, through the yelling of the children and the chattering and chaffering of the trading multitude.

There was a little street leading off the quay, picturesque and ancient, with parquetted houses and quaint painted signs; at the corner of it sat an old woman on a wooden stool, with a huge fan of linen on her head like a mushroom. She was selling roasted chestnuts by the glare of a little horn lantern.

By this woman she paused, and asked the way to Paris.

“Paris! This is a long way from Paris.”

“How far—to walk?”

“That depends. My boy went up there on foot last summer; he is a young fool, blotting and messing with ink and paper, while he talks of being a great man, and sups with the rats in the sewers! He, I think, was a week walking it. It is pleasant enough in fair weather. But you—you are a gipsy. Where are your people?”

“I have no people.”

She did not know even what this epithet of gipsy, which they so often cast at her, really meant. She remembered the old life of the Liébana, but she did not know what manner of life it had been; and since Phratos had left her there, no one of his tribe or of his kind had been seen in the little Norman town among the orchards.

The old woman grinned, trimming her lantern.

“If you are too bad for them, you must be bad indeed! You will do very well for Paris, no doubt.”

And she began to count her chestnuts, lest this stranger should steal any of them.

Folle‐Farine took no notice of the words.

“Will you show me which is the road to take?” she page: 396 asked. Meanwhile the street boy had brought three or four of his comrades to stare at her; and they were dancing round her with grotesque grimace, and singing, “Houpe là, Houpe là! Burn her for a witch!”

The woman directed her which roads to go as well as she could for the falling darkness, and she thanked the woman and went. The street children ran at her heels like little curs, yelling and hissing foul language; but she ran too, and was swifter than they, and outstripped them, the hardy training of her limbs standing her in good service.

How far she ran, or what streets she traversed, she could not tell; the chestnut‐seller had said. “Leave the pole‐star behind you,” and the star was shining behind her always, and she ran south steadily.

Great buildings, lighted casements, high stone walls, groups of people, troopers drinking, girls laughing, men playing dominoes in the taverns, women chattering in the coffee‐houses, a line of priests going to a death‐bed with the bell ringing before the Host, a line of soldiers filing through great doors as the drums beat the return into barracks,—thousands of these pictures glowed in her path a moment, with the next to fade and give place to others. But she looked neither to the right or left, and held on straightly for the south.

Once or twice a man halloed after her, or a soldier tried to stop her. Once, going through the gateway in the southern wall, a sentinel challenged her, and levelled his bayonet only a second too late. But she eluded them all by the swiftness of her apparition, and she got out safe beyond the barriers of the town, and on to the road that led to the country,—a road quiet and white in the moonlight, and bordered on either side with the tall poplars and the dim, bare, reapen fields which looked to her like dear familiar friends.

It was lonely, and she sat down on a stone by the wayside and rested. She had no hesitation in what she was doing. He had gone south, and she would go likewise; that she might fail to find him there, never occurred to her. Of what a city was she had not yet any conception; her sole measurement of one was the little towns whither she had driven the mules to sell the fruits and the fowls for Flamma.

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To have been cheated of Paris, and to find herself thus far distant from it appalled her, and made her heart sink.

But it had no power to make her hesitate in the course she took. She had no fear and no doubt: the worst thing that could have come to her had come already; the silence and the strength of absolute despair were on her.

Besides, a certain thrill of liberty was on her. For the first time in all her life she was absolutely free, with the freedom of the will and of the body both.

She was no longer captive to one place, bondslave to one tyranny; she was no longer driven with curses and commands, and yoked and harnessed every moment of her days. To her, with the blood of a tameless race in her, there was a certain force and elasticity in this deliverance from bondage, that lifted some measure of her great woe off her. She could not be absolutely wretched so long as the open sky was above her, and the smell of the fields about her, and on her face the breath of the blowing winds.

She had that love which is as the bezoar stone of fable—an amulet that makes all wounds unfelt, and death a thing to smile at in derision. Besides, there was in her veins a certain thrill of the sweetness of liberty. She was no longer captive to one place, or bound in the old bonds of servitude. She was free—with the freedom of the will and of the body.

Without some strong impulsion from without, she might never have cut herself adrift from the tyranny that had held her down from childhood; and even the one happiness she had known had been but little more than the exchange of one manner of slavery for another.

But now she was free—absolutely free; and in the calm, cool night—in the dusk and the solitude, with the smell of the fields around her, and above her the stars, she knew it and was glad,—glad even amidst the woe of loneliness and the agony of abandonment.

She sat awhile by the roadside and counted his gold by the gleam of the stars, and put it away securely in her girdle, and drank from the brook beside her, and tried to eat a little of the bread which the old boat‐man had given her as her wages, with three pieces of copper money.

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But the crust choked her; she felt hot with fever, and her throat was parched and full of pain.

The moon was full upon her where she sat; the red and white of her dress bore a strange look; her face was colourless, and her eyes looked but the larger and more lustrous for the black shadows beneath them, and the weary swollen droop of their lids.

She rested there, and pondered on the next step she had best take.

A woman came past her, and stopped and looked.

The moonlight was strong upon her face.

“You are a handsome wench,” said the wayfarer, who was elderly and of pleasant visage; “too handsome, a vast deal, to be sitting alone like one lost. What is the matter?”

“Nothing!” she answered.

The old reserve clung to her and fenced her secret in, as the prickles of a cactus hedge may fence in the magnolia’s flower of snow.

“What, then? Have you a home?”


“Eh! You must have a lover?”

Folle‐Farine’s lips grew whiter, and she shrank a little; but she answered, steadily:


“No! And at your age; and handsome as a ripe, red apple,—with your skin of satin, and your tangle of hair! Fie, for shame! Are the men blind? Where do you rest to‐night?”

“I am going on—south.”

“And mean to walk all night? Pooh! Come home with me, and sup and sleep. I live hard by, just inside the walls.”

Folle‐Farine opened her great eyes wide. It was the first creature who had ever offered her hospitality. It was an old woman, too; there could be nothing but kindness in the offer, she thought; and kindness was so strange to her, that it troubled her more than did cruelty.

“You are good,” she said, gratefully,—“very good; but I cannot come.”

“Cannot come! Why, then?”

“Because I must go on to Paris; I cannot lost an hour. Nevertheless, it is good of you.”

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The old woman laughed roughly.

“Oh, ho! the red apple must go to Paris. No other market grand enough! Is that it?”

“I do not know what you mean.”

“But stay with me to‐night. The roads are dangerous. There are vagrants and ill‐livers about. There are great fogs, too, in this district; and you will meet drunken soldiers and beggars that will rob you. Come home with me. I have a pretty little place, though poor; and you shall have such fare as I give my own daughter. And maybe you will see two or three of the young nobles. They look in for a laugh and a song—all innocent: my girls are favourites. Come, it is not a stone’s throw through the south gate.”

“You are too good; but I cannot come. As for the road, I am not afraid. I have a good knife, and I am strong.”

She spoke in all unconsciousness, in her heart thankful to this, the first human creature that had ever offered her shelter or good nature.

The woman darted one sharp look at her, venomous as an adder’s bite; then bade her a short good‐night, and went on her way to the gates of the town. Folle‐Farine rose up and walked on, taking her own southward road.

She was ignorant of any peril that she had escaped. She did not know that the only animals which prey upon the young of their own sex and kind are women.

She was very tired; long want of sleep, anguish, and bodily fatigue made her dull, and too exhausted to keep long upon her feet. She looked about her for some place of rest; and she knew that if she did not husband her strength, it might fail her ere she reached him, and stretch her on a sick‐bed in some hospital of the poor.

She passed two of three cottages standing by the roadside, with light gleaming through their shutters; but she did not knock at any one of them. She was afraid of spending her three copper coins; and she was too proud to seek food or lodging as an alms.

By‐and‐by when came to a little shed, standing where no house was. She looked in it, and saw it full of the last season’s hay, dry and sweet‐smelling, tenanted only by a cat rolled round in slumber.

She crept into it, and laid herself down and slept, the page: 400 bright starry skies shining on her through the open space that served for entrance, the clatter of a little brook under the poplar trees the only sound upon the quiet air.

Footsteps went past twice or thrice, and once a waggon rolled lumbering by; but no one came thither to disturb her, and she sank into a fitful heavy sleep.

At daybreak she was again afoot, always on the broad road to the south‐west.

With one of her coins she bought a loaf and a draught of milk, at a hamlet through which she went. She was surprised to find that people spoke to her without a curse or taunt, and dealt with her as with any other human being.

Insensibly with the change of treatment, and with the fresh sweet air, and with the brisk movement that bore her on her way, her heart grew lighter, and her old dauntless spirit rose again.

She would find him, she thought, as soon as ever she entered Paris; and she would watch over him, and only go near him if he needed her. And then, and then—.

But her thoughts went no further. She shut the future out from her; it appalled her. Only one thing was clear before her—that she would get him the greatness that he thirsted for, if any payment of her body or her soul, life or death, could purchase it.

A great purpose nerves the life it lives in, so that no personal terrors can assail, nor any minor woes afflict it. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, hardship, danger,—these were all in her path, and she had each in turn; but not one of them unnerved her.

To reach Paris, she felt that she would have walked through flames, or fasted forty days.

For two days and nights she went on—days cloudless, nights fine and mild; then came a day of storm—sharp hail and loud thunder. She went on through it all the same, the agony in her heart made the glare of lightning and the roar of winds no more to her than the sigh of an April breeze over a primrose bank.

She had various fortunes on her way.

A party of tramps crossing a meadow set on her, and tried to insult her; she showed them her knife, and with the blade bare against her throat, made them fall back, and scattered them.

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A dirty and tattered group of gipsies, squatting in a dry ditch under a tarpaulin, hailed her, and wanted her to join with them and share their broken food. She eluded them with disgust; they were not like the gitanos of Liébana, and she took them to be beggars and thieves, as indeed, they were.

At a little wayside cabin, a girl, with a bright rosy face, spoke softly and cheerily to her, and bade her rest awhile on the bench in the porch under the vines; and brought out some white pigeons to show her; and asked her, with interest, whence she came. And she, in her fierceness and her shyness, was touched, and wondered greatly that any female thing could be thus good.

She met an old man with an organ on his back, and a monkey on his shoulder. He was old and infirm. She carried his organ for him awhile, as they went along the same road; and he was gentle and kind in return, and made the route she had to take clear to her, and told her, with a shake of his head that Paris would either be hell or heaven to such as she. And she, hearing, smiled a little, for the first time since she had left Yprès Yprés , and thought—heaven or hell, what would it matter which, so long as she found Arslàn?

Of Dante she had never heard; but the spirit of the “questi chi mai da me non piu diviso” dwells untaught in every great love.

Once, at night, a vagrant tried to rob her, having watched her count the gold and notes which she carried in her girdle. He dragged her to a lonely place, and snatched at the red sash, grasping the money with it; but she was too quick for him, and beat him off in such a fashion that he slunk away limping, and told his fellows to beware of her; for she had the spring of a cat, and the stroke of a swan’s wing.

On the whole, the world seemed better to her than it had done: the men were seldom insolent, taking warning from the look in her flashing eyes and the straight carriage of her flexible frame; and the women more than once were kind.

Many peasants passed her on their market‐mules, and many carriers’ carts and farm‐waggons went by along the sunny roads.

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Sometimes their drivers called to her to get up, and gave her a lift of a league or two on their piles of grass, or straw, or amongst their crates of cackling poultry, as they made their slow way between the lines of the trees, with their horses nodding heavily under the weight of their uncouth harness.

All this while she never touched the gold that he had given her. Very little food sufficed to her: she had been hardly reared; and for the little she had she worked always, on her way.

A load carried, a lost sheep fetched in, some wood hewn and stacked, a crying calf fed, a cabbage‐patch dug or watered, these got her the simple fare which she fed on; and for lodging she was to none indebted, preferring to lie down by the side of the cows in their stalls, or under a stack against some little blossoming garden.

The people had no prejudice against her: she found few foes, when she had left the district that knew the story of Reine Flamma; they were, on the contrary, amused with her strange picture‐like look, and awed with the sad brevity of her speech to them.

Sometimes it chanced to her to get no tasks of any sort to do, and at these times she went without food: touch his gold she would not.

On the road she did what good she could; she walked a needless league to carry home a child who had broken his leg in a lonely lane; she sought, in a foggy night, for the straying goat of a wretched woman; she saved an infant from the flames in a little cabin burning in the midst of the green fields: she did what came in her path to do. For her heart was half broken; and this was her way of prayer.

So, by tedious endeavour, she won her passage wearily towards Paris.

She had been nine days on the road, losing her way at times, and having often wearily to retrace her steps.

On the tenth day she came to a little town lying in a green hollow amidst woods.

It had an ancient church; the old sweet bells were ringing a last midday mass; a crumbling fortress of the Angevine kings gave it majesty and shadow; it was full of flowers and of trees, and had quaint, quiet, grey streets, page: 403 hilly and shady, that made her think of the streets round about the cathedral of her mother’s birthplace, away north‐westward in the white sea‐mists.

When she entered it, noon had just sounded from all its many clocks and chimes. The weather was hot, and she was very tired. She had not eaten any food, save some berries and green leaves, for more than forty hours. She had been refused anything to do in all places; and she had no money—except that gold of his.

There was a little tavern, vine‐shaded, and bright with a late‐flowering rose that hid its casements. She asked there, timidly, if there were any task she might do,—to fetch water, to sweep, to break wood, to drive or to stable a mule or a horse?

They took her to be a gipsy; they ordered her roughly to be gone.

Through the square window she could see food—a big juicy melon cut in halves, sweet yellow cakes, warm and crisp from the oven, a white chicken, cold and dressed with cresses, a jug of milk, an abundance of bread. And her hunger was very great.

Nine days of sharper privation than even that to which she had been inured in the penury of Yprès Yprés had made her cheeks hollow and her limbs fleshless; and a continual consuming heat and pain gnawed at her chest.

She sat on a bench that was free to all wayfarers, and looked at the food in the tavern‐kitchen. It tempted her with the animal ravenousness begotten by long fast. She wanted to fly at it as a starved dog flies. A rosy‐faced woman cut up the chicken on a china dish, singing.

Folle‐Farine, outside, looked at her, and took courage from her smiling face.

“Will you give me a little work?” she murmured. “Anything—anything—so that I may get bread.”

“You are a gipsy,” answered the woman, ceasing to smile. “Go to your own folk.”

And she would not offer her even a plate of broken victuals.

Folle‐Farine rose and walked wearily away. She could not bear the sight of the food; she felt that if she looked at it longer she would spring on it like a wolf. But to use his gold never occurred to her. She would have bitten her page: 404 tongue through in famine ere she would have taken one coin of it.

As she went, being weak from long hunger and the stroke of the sun‐rays, she stumbled and fell. She recovered herself quickly; but in the fall the money had shaken itself from her sash, and been scattered with a ringing sound among the stones.

The woman in the tavern‐window raised a loud cry.

“Oh, hè! the wicked liar!—to beg bread while her waistband is stuffed like a turkey with chestnuts! What a rogue to try and dupe poor honest people like us! Take her to prison.”

The woman cried loud; there were half‐a‐dozen stout serving‐wenches and stable‐lads about in the little street, with several boys and children. Indignant at the thought of an attempted fraud upon their charity, and amazed at the flash and the fall of the money, they rushed on her with shrieks of rage and scorn, with missiles of turf and stone, with their brooms raised aloft, or their dogs set to rage at her.

She had not time to gather up the coins and notes; she could only stand over them and defend them. Two beggar‐boys made snatch at the tempting heap; she drew her knife to daunt them with the sight of it. The people shrieked at sight of the bare blade; a woman selling honeycomb and lots of honey at a bench under a lime‐tree raised a cry that she had been robbed. It was not true; but a street crowd always loves a lie, and never risks spoiling, by sifting, it.

The beggar‐lads and the two serving‐wenches and an old virago from a cottage‐door near set upon her, and scrambled together to drive her away from the gold and share it. Resolute to defend it at any peril, she set her heel down on it, and, with her back against the tree, stood firm; not striking, but with the point of the knife outward.

One of the boys, maddened to get the gold, darted forward, twisted his limbs round her, and struggled with her for its possession. In the struggle he wounded himself upon the steel. His arm bled largely; he filled the air with his shrieks; the people, furious, accused her of his murder.

Before five minutes had gone by she was seized, overpowered by numbers, cuffed, kicked, upbraided with every page: 405 name of infamy, and dragged as a criminal up the little steep stony street in the blaze of the noonday sun, whilst on each side the townsfolk looked out from their doorways and their balconies, and cried out:

“What is it? Oh, hè! A brawling gipsy, who has stolen something, and has stabbed poor little Fréki, the blind man’s son, because he found her out? Au violon!—au violon! What is it?”

To which the groups called back again, “Yes. A thief of a gipsy, begging alms while she had stolen gold on her. She has stabbed poor little Fréki, the blind cobbler’s grandson: yes; we think he is dead.”

And the people above, in horror, lifted their hands and eyes, and shouted afresh, “Au violon!—au violon!

Meanwhile the honey‐seller ran beside them, crying aloud that she had been robbed of five broad gold pieces.

It was a little sunny country‐place, very green with trees and grass, filled usually with few louder sounds than the cacklings of geese and the dripping of well‐water.

But its stones were sharp and rough; its voices were shrill and fierce; its gossips were cruel and false of tongue; its justice was very small, and its credulity was measureless. A girl, bare‐foot and bare‐headed, with eyes of the East, and a knife in her girdle, teeth that met in their youngsters’ wrists, and gold pieces that scattered like dust from her bosom,—such an one could have no possible innocence in their eyes, such an one was condemned so soon as she was looked at, when she was dragged amongst them up their hilly central way.

She had had money on her, and she had asked for food in the plea of being starved; that was fraud plain enough, even for those who were free to admit that the seller of the honey‐pots had never been over‐true of speech, and had never owned so much as five gold pieces ever since her first bees had sucked their first spray of heath‐bells.

No one had any mercy on a creature who had money, and yet asked for work; as to her guilt, there could be no question.

She was hurried before the village tribune, and cast into the cell where all accused waited their judgement.

It was a dusky, loathsome place, dripping with damp, half underground, strongly grilled with iron, and smelling page: 406 foully from the brandy and strong smoke of two drunkards who had been its occupants the previous night.

There they had left her, taking away her knife and her money.

She did not resist. It was not her nature to rebel futilely; and they had fallen on her six to one, and had bound her safely with cords ere they had dragged her away to punishment.

The little den was visible to the highway through a square low grating. Through this they came and stared, and mouthed, and mocked, and taunted, and danced before her. To bait a gipsy was fair pastime.

Everywhere, from door to door, the blind cobbler, with his little son, and the woman who sold honey told their tale,—how she had stabbed the little lad and stolen the gold that the brave bees had brought their mistress, and begged for food when she had money enough on her to buy a rich man’s feast. It was a tale to enlist against her all the hardest animosities of the poor. The village rose against her in all its little homes as though she had borne fire and sword into its midst.

If the arm of the law had not guarded the entrance of her prison‐cell, the women would have stoned her to death, or dragged her out to drown in the pond:—she was worse than a murderess in their sight; and one weak man, thinking to shelter her a little from their rage, quoted against her her darkest crime when he pleaded for mercy for her because she was young and was so handsome.

The long hot day of torment passed slowly by.

Outside there were cool woods, flower‐filled paths, broad fields of grass, children tossing blow‐balls down the wind, lovers counting the leaves of yellow‐eyed autumn daisies; but within there were only foul smells, intense nausea, cruel heats, the sting of a thousand insects, the buzz of a hundred carrion‐flies, muddy water, and black mouldy bread.

She held her silence. She would not let her enemies see that they hurt her.

When they day had gone down, and the people had tired of their sport and left her a little while, an old feeble man stole timidly to her, glancing round lest any should see his charity and quote is as a crime, and tendered her through page: 407 the bars with a gentle hand a little ripe autumnal fruit upon a cool green leaf.

The kindness made the tears start to eyes too proud to weep for pain.

She took the grapes, and thanked him lovingly and thankfully; cooled her aching, burning, dust‐drenched throat with their fragrant moisture.

“Hush! it is nothing,” he whispered, frightenedly, glancing over his shoulder lest any should see. “But tell me—tell me—why did you say you starved when you had all that gold?”

“I did starve,” she answered him.

“But why—with all that gold?”

“It was another’s.”

The old man stared at her, trembling and amazed.

“What—what! die of hunger and keep your hands off money in your girdle?”

A dreary smile came on her face.

“What! is that inhuman too?”

“Inhuman?” he murmured. “Oh child—oh child, tell any tale you will, save such a tale as that.”

And he stole away sorrowful, because sure that for his fruit of charity she had given him back a lie.

He shambled away, afraid that his neighbours should see the little thing which he had done.

She was left alone.

It began to grow dark. She felt scorched with fever, and her head throbbed. Long hunger, intense fatigue, and all the agony of thought in which she had struggled on her way, had their reaction on her. She shivered where she sat on the damp straw which they had cast upon the stones; and strange noises sang in her ears, and strange lights glimmered and flashed before her eyes. She did not know what ailed her.

The dogs came and smelt at her, and one little early robin sang a twilight song in an elder‐bush near. These were the only things that had any pity on her.

By‐and‐by, when it was quite night, they opened the grated door and thrust in another captive, a vagrant whom they had found drunk or delirious on the high road, and whom they locked up for the night, that on the morrow they might determine what to do with him.

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He threw himself heavily forward as he was pushed in by the old soldier whose place it was to guard the miserable den.

She shrank away into the furthest corner of the den, and crouched there, breathing heavily, and staring with dull, dilated eyes.

She thought—surely they could not mean to leave them there alone, all the night through, in the horrible darkness?

The slamming of the iron door answered her; and the old soldier, as he turned the rusty key in the lock, grumbled that the world was surely at a pretty pass, when two tramps became too coy to roost together. And he stumbled up the ladder‐like stairs of the guard‐house to his own little chamber; and there, smoking and drinking, and playing dominoes with a comrade, dismissed the prisoners from his recollection.

Meanwhile, the man whom he had thrust into the cell was stretched where he had fallen, drunk or insensible, and moaning heavily.

She, crouching against the wall, as though praying the stones to yield and hold her, gazed at him with horror and pity that together strove in the confusion of her dizzy brain, and made her dully wonder whether she were wicked thus to shrink in loathing from a creature in distress so like her own.

The bright moon rose on the other side of the trees beyond the grating; it fell across the figure of the vagrant whom they had locked in with her, as in the wild‐beast shows of old they locked a lion with an antelope in the same cage—out of sport.

She saw the looming massive shadow of an immense form, crouched like a couching beast; she saw the fire of burning, wide‐open, sullen eyes; she saw the restless, feeble gesture of two lean hands, that clutched at the barren stones with the futile action of a chained vulture clutching at his rock; she saw that the man suffered horribly, and she tried to pity him—tried not to shrink from him—tried to tell herself that he might be as guiltless as was herself. But she could not prevail; nature, instinct, youth, sex, sickness, exhaustion, all conquered her, and broke her strength. She recoiled from the unbearable loathsomeness of such association; she sprang to the grated page: 409 aperture, and seized the iron in her hands, and shook it with al her might, and tore at it, and bruised her chest and arms against it, and clung to it convulsively, shriek after shriek pealing from her lips.

No one heard, or no one answered to her prayer.

A stray dog came and howled in unison; the moon sailed on behind the trees; the old soldier above slept over his toss of brandy; at the only dwelling near they were dancing at a bridal, and had no ear to hear.

The passionate outcries wailed themselves to silence on her trembling mouth; her strained hands gave way from their hold on the irons; she grew silent from sheer exhaustion, and dropped in a heap at the foot of the iron door, clinging to it, and crushed against it, and turning her face to the night without, feeling some little sense of solace in the calm, clear moon;—some little sense of comfort in the near presence of the dog.

Meanwhile the dusky prostrate form of the man had not stirred. He had not spoken, save to curse heaven and earth and every living thing. He had not ceased to glare at her with eyes that had the red light of a tiger’s in their pain.

He was a man of superb stature and frame; he was worn by disease and delirium, but he had in him a wild, leonine, tawny beauty still. His clothes were of rags, and his whole look was of wretchedness; yet there was about him a certain reckless majesty and splendour still, as the scattered beams of the white moonlight broke themselves upon him.

Of a sudden he spoke aloud, with a glitter of terrible laughter on his white teeth and his flashing eyes. He was delirious, and had no consciousness of where he was.

“The fourth bull I had killed that Easter day. Look! do you see? It was a red Andalusian. He lamed three picadors, and ripped the bellies of eight horses,—a brave bull; but I was one too many for him. She was there. All the winter she had flouted over me and taunted me; all the winter she had cast her scorn at me—the beautiful brown thing, with her cruel eyes. But she was there when I slew the great red bull—straight above there, looking over her fan. Do you see? And when my sword went up to the hilt in his throat, and the brave blood spouted, she page: 410 laughed such a little sweet laugh, and cast her yellow jessamine flower at me, down in the blood and the sand there. And that night the red bull died, the rope was thrown from the balcony! So—so! Only a summer ago; only a summer ago!” Then he laughed loud again; and, laughing, sang—

“Avez‐vous vu en Barcelonne Une belle‐dame, au sein bruni, Pâle comme un beau soir d’automne? C’est ma maitresse, ma lionne, La Marchesa d’Amagüi.”

The rich loud challenge of the love‐song snapped short in two. With a groan and a curse he flung himself on the mud floor, and clutched at it with his empty hands.

“Wine!—wine!” he moaned, lying athirst there as the red bull had lain on the sands of the circus; longing for the purple draughts of his old feast‐nights, as the red bull had longed for the mountain‐streams, so cold and strong, of his own Andalusian birthplace.

Then he laughed again, and sang old songs of Spain, broken and marred by discord—their majestic melodies wedded strangely to many a stave of lewd riot and of amorous verse.

Then for awhile he was quiet, moaning dully, staring upward at the white face of the moon.

After a while he mocked it—the cold, chaste thing that was the meek trickster of so many mole‐eyed lords.

Through the terror and the confusion of her mind, with the sonorous melody of the tongue, with the flaming darkness of his eyes, with the wild barbaric dissolute grandeur of this shattered manhood, vague memories floated, distorted and intangible, before her.

Of deep forests whose shade was cool even in midsummer and midday; of glancing torrents rushing through their beds of stone; of mountain snows flushing in sunset toll the hues of the mountain roses that grew by millions by the river‐water; of wondrous nights, sultry and serene, in which women with flashing glances and bare breasts danced with their spangled anklets glittering in the rays of the moon; of roofless palaces where the Crescent still glistened amidst the colours of the walls; of marble courts where only the oleander kept pomp and the wild fig‐vine held possession; page: 411 of a dead nation which at midnight thronged through the tombs of its kings, and passed in shadowy hosts through the fated land which had rejected the faith and the empire of Islam; sowing as they went upon the blood‐soaked soil of Spain the vengeance of the dead in pestilence, in anarchy, in barren passions, in endless riot and revolt, so that no sovereign should ever sit in peace on the ruined throne of the Moslem, and no light shine ever again upon the people whose boast it once had been on them the sun in heaven never set:—all these memories floated before her, and only served to make her fear more ghastly, her horror more unearthly.

There he lay delirious—a madman chained there at her feet, so close in the little den, that, shrink as she would against the wall, she could barely keep from the touch of his hands as they were flung forth in the air, from the scorch of his breath as he raved and cursed.

And there was no light except the fire in his eyes; except the flicker of the moonbeam through the leaves.

She spent her strength in piteous shrieks. They were the first cries that had ever broken from her lips for human aid; and they were vain. The guard above slept heavy with brandy and a dotard’s dreams. The village was not aroused. What cared any of its sleepers how these outcasts fared?

She crouched in the farthest corner, when her voice had spent itself in the passion of appeal.

The night—would it ever end?

Beside its horror, all the wretchedness and bondage of her old life seemed like peace and freedom.

Writhing in pain and frenzy, the wounded drunkard struck her—all unconscious of the blow—across her eyes, and fell, contorted and senseless, with his head upon her knees.

He had ceased to shout his amorous songs, and vaunt his lustful triumphs. His voice was hollow in his throat, and babbled with a strange sound, low and fast and inarticulate.

“In the little green wood—in the little green wood,” he muttered. “Hark! do you hear the mill‐water run? She looked so white and so cold; and they all called her a saint. What could a man do but kill that? Does she cry out page: 412 against me? You say so? You lie. You lie—be you devil or god. You sit on a great white throne and judge us all. So they say. You can send us to hell? . . . . Well, do. You shall never wring a word from her to my hurt. She thinks I killed the child? Nay—that I swear. Phratos knew, I think. But he is dead;—so they say. Ask him . . . . My brown queen, who saw me kill the red bull,—are you there too? Aye. How the white jewels shine in your breast! Stoop a little, and kiss me. So! Your mouth burns; and the yellow jessamine flower—there is a snake in it. Look! You love me? —oh‐ho!—what does your priest say, and your lord? Love!—so many of you swore that. But she,—she standing next to her god there,—I hurt her most, and yet she alone of you all says nothing!”

* * * * * *

When, at daylight, the people unbarred the prison‐door, they found the sightless face of the dead mean lying full in the light of the sun: beside him the girl crouched with a senseless stare in the horror of her eyes, and on her lips a ghastly laugh.

For Folle‐Farine had entered at last into her Father’s kingdom.


FOR many months she knew nothing of the flight of time. All she was conscious of were burning intolerable pain, continual thirst, and the presence as of an iron hand upon her head, weighing down the imprisoned brain. All she saw in the horrible darkness, which no ray of light ever broke, was the face of Thanatos, with the white rose pressed against his mouth, to whom endlessly she stretched her arms in vain entreaty, but who said only, with the passionless pity of his gaze, “I come in my own time, and neither tarry nor hasten for any supplication of a mortal creature.”

She lived, as a reed torn up from the root may live, by page: 413 the winds that waft it, by the birds that carry it, by the sands that draw its fibres down into themselves, to root afresh whether it will or no.

“The reed was worthy to die!—the reed was worthy to die!” was all that she said, again and again, lying staring with her hot distending eyes into the void as of perpetual night, which was all that she saw around her. The words were to those who heard her, however, the mere meaningless babble of madness.

When they had found her in the cell of the guardhouse, she was far beyond any reach of harm from them, or any sensibility of the worst which they might do to her. She was in a delirious stupor, which left her no more sense of place, or sound, or time than if her brain had been drugged to the agonies and ecstasies of the opium‐eater.

They found her homeless, friendless, nameless; a thing accursed, destitute, unknown; as useless and as rootless as the dead Spanish vagrant lying on the stones beside her. They cast him to the public ditch; they sent her to the public sick wards, a league away; an ancient palace, whose innumerable chambers and whose vast corridors had been given to a sisterhood of mercy, and employed for nigh a century as a public hospital.

In this prison she lay without any sense of the passing of hours and days and months.

The accusation against her fell to the ground harmless; no one pursued it: the gold was gone—somewhere, nowhere. No one knew, unless it were the bee‐wife, and she held her peace.

She was borne, senseless, to the old hospice in the great, dull, saintly, historic town, and there perished from all memories as all time perished to her.

Once or twice the sister of charity who had the charge of her sought to exorcise the demon tormenting this stricken brain and burning body, by thrusting into the hands that clenched the air a leaden image or a cross of sacred wood. But those heathen hands, even in delirium, threw those emblems away always, and the captive would mutter, in a vague incoherence that froze the blood of her hearers:

“The old gods are not dead; they only wait—they only wait! I am theirs—theirs! They forget, perhaps. But I remember. I keep my faith; they must keep theirs, for page: 414 shame’s sake. Heaven or hell? what does it matter? Can it matter to me, so that he has his desire? And that they must give, or break faith, as men do. Persephone ate the pomegranate,—you know—and she went back to hell. So will I—if they will it. What can it matter how the reed dies?—by fire, by steel, by storm? —what matter, so that the earth hear the music? Ah, God! the reed was found worthy to die!—And I—I am too vile, too poor, too shameful even for that!”

And then her voice would rise in a passion of hysteric weeping, or sink away into the feeble wailing of the brain, mortally stricken, and yet dimly sensible of its own madness and weakness; and all through the hours she, in her unconsciousness, would lament for this—for this alone—that the gods had not deemed her worthy of the stroke of death by which, through her, a divine melody might have arisen, and saved the world.

For the fable—which had grown to hold the place of so implicit a faith to her—was in her delirium always present with her; and she had retained no sense of herself except as the bruised and trampled reed which man and the gods alike had rejected as unworthy of sacrifice.

All the late autumn and the early winter came and went; and the cloud was dark upon her mind, and the pain of the blow dealt to her by Taric’s hand gnawed at her brain.

When the winter turned, the darkness in which her reason had been engulphed began to clear, little by little.

As the first small trill of the wren stirred the silence in the old elm boughs; as the first feeble gleam of the new year sunshine struggled through the matted branches of the yews; as the first frail blossom of the pale hepatica timidly peeped forth in the damp moss‐grown walls without, so consciousness slowly returned to her. She was so young; the youth in her refused to be quenched, and recovered its hold upon life as did the song of the birds, the light in the skies, the corn in the seed‐sown earth.

She awakened to strength, to health, to knowledge; she awoke thus blinded and confused, and capable of little save the sense of some loathsome bondage, of some irreparable loss, of some great duty which she had left undone, of some great errand to which she had been summoned, and found wanting.

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She saw four close stone walls around her; she saw her wrists and her ankles bound; she saw a hole high above her head, braced with iron bars, which served to let in the few pallid streaks of daylight which alone ever found their way thither; she saw a black cross in one corner, and before it two women in black, who prayed.

She tried to rise and could not: being fettered. She tore at the rope on her wrists with her teeth like a young tigress at her chains.

They essayed to soothe her, but in vain; they then made trial first of threats, than of coercion; neither affected her; she bit at the knotted cords with her white strong teeth, and, being unable to free herself, fell backward into a savage despair, glaring in mute impotent rage upon her keepers.

“I must go to Paris,” she muttered again and again. “I must go to Paris.”

So much escaped her;—but her secret she was still strong to keep buried in silence in her heart, as she had still kept it even in her madness.

Her old strength, her old patience, her old ferocity and stubbornness and habits of mute resistance had revived in her with the return of life and reason. Slowly she remembered all things,—remembered that she had been accused and hunted down as a thief and brought thither into this prison, as she deemed it, where the closeness of the walls pent her in and shut out the clouds and the stars, the water and the moonrise, the flicker of the green leaves against the gold of sunset, and all the liberty and loveliness of earth and air for which she was devoured by a continual thirst of longing, like the thirst of the caged lark for the fair heights of heaven.

So when they spoke of their god, she answered always as the lark answers when his gaolers speak to him of song;—“Set me free.”

But they thought this madness no less, and kept her bound there in the little dark stone den where no sound ever reached, unless it were the wailing of a bell, and no glimpse of the sky or the trees could ever come to charm to peaceful rest her aching eyes.

At length they grew afraid of what they did. She refused all food; she turned her face to the wall; she stretched herself on her bed of straw motionless and rigid. page: 416 The confinement, the absence of air, were where a living death to the creature whose lungs were stifled unless they drank in the fresh cool draught of winds blowing unchecked over the widths of the fields and forests, and whose eyes ached and grew blind unless they could gaze into the depths of free‐flowing water, or feed themselves in far‐reaching sight upon the radiant skies.

The errant passions in her, the inborn instincts towards perpetual liberty, and the life of the desert and of the mountains which came with the blood of the Zingari, made her prison‐house a torture to her such as is unknown to the house‐born and hearth‐fettered races.

If this wild moorbird died of self‐imposed famine rather than live only to beat its cut wings against the four walls of their pent prison‐house, it might turn ill for themselves; so the religious community meditated. They became afraid of their own work.

One day they said to her:

“Eat and live, and you will be set free to‐morrow.”

She turned for the first time and lifted her face from the straw in which she buried it, and looked them in the eyes.

“Is that true?” she asked.

“Ay,” they answered her. “We swear it by the cross of our blessed Master.”

“If a Christian swear it,—it must be a lie,” she said, with the smile that froze their timid blood.

But she accepted the food and the drink which they brought her, and broke her fast, and slept through many hours; strengthened, as by strong wine, by that one hope of freedom beneath the wide pure skies.

She asked them on awakening what the season of the year was then. They told her it was the early spring.

“The spring,” she echoed dully,—all the months were a blank to her, which had rolled by since that red autumn evening, when in the cell of the guard‐house the voice of Taric had chaunted in drink and delirium the passion songs of Spain.

“Yes. It is spring,” they said; and one sister, younger and gentler than the rest, reached from its place above the crucifix the bough of the golden catkins of the willow, which served them at their holy season as an emblem of the palms of Palestine.

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She looked at the drooping grace of the branches, with their buds of amber, long and in silence; then with a passion of weeping she turned her face from them as from the presence of some intolerable memory.

All down the shore of the river, amongst the silver of the reeds, the willows had been in blossom when she had first looked upon the face of Arslàn.

“Stay with us,” the women murmured, drawn to her by the humanity of those, the first, tears that she had ever shed in her imprisonment. “Stay with us; and it shall go hard if we cannot find a means to bring you to eternal peace.”

She shook her head wearily.

“It is not peace that I seek,” she murmured.


He would care nothing for peace on earth or in heaven, she knew. What she had sought to gain for him—what she would seek still when once she should get free—was the eternal conflict of a great fame in the world of men. Since this was the only fate which in his sight had any grace or any glory in it.

They kept their faith with her. They opened the doors of her prison‐house and bade her depart in peace, pagan and criminal though they deemed her.

She reeled a little dizzily as the first blaze of the full daylight fell on her. She walked out with unsteady steps into the open air where they took her, and felt it cool and fresh upon her cheek, and saw the blue sky above her.

The gates which they unbarred were those at the back of the hospital, where the country stretched around. They did not care that she should be seen by the people of the streets.

She was left alone on a road outside the great building that had been her prison‐house; the road was full of light, it was straight and shadowless; there was a tall tree near her full of leaf; there was a little bird fluttering in the sand at her feet; the ground was wet, and sparkled with rain drops.

All these little things came to her like the notes of a song heard far away—far away—in another world. They were so familiar, yet so strange.

There was a little yellow flower growing in a tuft of page: 418 grasses straight in front of her; a little wayside weed; a root and blossom of the field‐born celandine.

She fell on her knees in the dust by it, and laughed and wept, and quivering, kissed it and blessed it that it grew there. It was the first thing of summer and of sunshine she had seen so long.

A man in the gateway saw her and shook her, and bade her get from the ground.

“You are fitter to go back again,” he muttered; “you are mad, still, I think.”

Like a hunted animal she stumbled to her feet and fled from him; winged by the one ghastly terror that they would claim her and chain her back again.

They had said that she was free: but what were words? They had taken her once; they might take her twice.

She ran, and ran, and ran.

The intense fear that possessed her lent her irresistible force. She coursed the earth with the swiftness of a hare. She took no heed whence she went; she only knew that she fled from the one unutterable horror of that place. She thought they were right; that she was mad.

It was a level green silent country which was round her, with little loveliness and little colour; but as she went she laughed incessantly in the delirious gladness of her liberty.

She tossed her head back to watch the flight of a single swallow; she caught a handful of green leaves and buried her face in them. She listened in a very agony of memory to the rippling moisture of a little brook. She followed with her eyes the sweeping vapours of the rain‐clouds, and when a west wind rose and blew a cluster of loose apple blossoms between her eyes—she could no longer bear the passionate pain of all the long‐lost sweetness, but flinging herself downward, sobbed with the ecstasy of an exile’s memories.

The hell in which she had dwelt had denied them to her for so long.

“Ah God!” she thought, “I know now—one cannot be utterly wretched whilst one has still the air and the light and the winds of the sky.”

And she arose, calmer, and went on her way; wondering, even in that hour, why men and women trod the daily page: 419 measures of their lives with their eyes downward and their ears choked with the dust; hearkening so little to the sound of the breeze in the grasses, looking so little to the passage of the clouds against the sun.

When the first blindness and rapture of her liberty had a little passed away, and abated in violence, she stood in the midst of the green fields and the fresh woods, a strange, sad, lonely figure of absolute desolation.

Her clothes were in rags; her red girdle had been changed by weather to a dusky purple; her thick clustering hair had been cut to her throat; her radiant hues were blanched, and her immense eyes gazed woefully from beneath their heavy dreamy lids, like the eyes of an antelope whom men vainly starve in the attempt to tame.

She knew neither where to go nor what to do. She had not a coin nor a crust upon her. She could not tell where she then stood, nor where the only home that she had ever known might lie.

She had not a friend on earth and she was seventeen years old, and was beautiful and was a woman.

She stood and looked; she did not weep; she did not pray; her heart seemed frozen in her. She had the gift she had craved;—and how could she use it?

The light was obscured by the clouds, great sweet rain clouds which came trooping from the west. Woods were all round, and close against her were low brown cattle, cropping clovered grass. Away on the horizon was a vague, vast golden cloud, like a million threads of gossamer glowing in the sun.

She did not know what it was; yet it drew her eyes to it.

A herdsman came by her to the cattle. She pointed to the cloud.

“What is that light?” she asked him.

The cowherd stared and laughed.

“That light? It is only the sun shining on the domes and the spires of Paris.”


She echoed the name with a great sob, and crossed her hands upon her breast, and in her way thanked God.

She had had no thought that she could be thus near to it.

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She asked no more, but set straight on her way thither. It looked quite close.

She had exhausted the scanty strength which she owned in her first flight; she could go but slowly; and the roads were heavy across the ploughed lands, and through the edges of the woods. She walked on and on till it grew dusk, then she asked of a woman weeding in a field how far it might be yet to Paris.

The woman told her four leagues and more.

She grew deadly cold with fear. She was weak, and she had no hope that she could reach it before dawn; and she had nothing with which to buy shelter for the night. She could see it still; a cloud, now as of fireflies, upon the purple and black of the night; and in a passionate agony of longing she once more bent her limbs and ran—thinking of him.

To her the city of the world, the city of the kings, the city of the eagles, was only of value for the sake of this one life it held.

It was useless. All the strength she possessed was already spent. The feebleness of fever still sang in her ears and trembled in her blood. She was sick and faint, and very thirsty.

She struck timidly at a little cottage door, and asked to rest the night there.

The woman glanced at her and slammed‐to the door. At another and yet another she tried; but at neither had she any welcome; they muttered of the hospitals and drove her onward. Finally, tired out, she dropped down on the curled hollow of an old oak stump that stood by the wayside, and fell asleep, seeing to the last through her sinking lids that cloud of light where the great city lay.

The night was cold; the earth damp; it was far on into night; she stretched her limbs out wearily and sighed, and dreamed that Thanatos touched her with his asphodels, and whispered, “Come.”

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WHEN she awoke she was no longer in the open air by the roadside, with the grey of the falling night about her, and the wet leaves for her bed. She was in a white painted chamber, sweet with many roses, hung with deep hues of violet, filled with gold and colour and sculpture and bronze, duskily beautiful and dimly lighted by a great wood fire that glowed upon andirons of brass.

On the wall nearest her hung all alone a picture,—a picture of a girl asleep in a scarlet blaze of poppies, above her head a purple butterfly, and on her breast the Red Mouse of the Brocken.

Opposite to it beside the hearth, watching her with his small brilliant eyes, and quite motionless, sat the old man Sartorian, who had kept his faith with her, though the gods had not kept theirs.

And the picture and the reality grew confused before her, and she knew not which was herself and which her painted likeness, nor which was the little red mouse that gibbered among the red flowers, and which the little old man who sat watching her with the fire gleams bright in his eyes; and it seemed to her that she and the picture were one, and he and the mouse were one likewise; and she moaned and leaned her head on her hands and tried to think.

The heat of the chamber and the strong nourishment which they had poured down her throat when she was insensible of anything they did to her, had revived the life in her. Memory and sense returned slowly to her; what first awakened her was her one passionate desire, so intense that it became an instinct stifling every other, to go on her way to the city that had flashed in its golden glory on her sight one moment, only the next to disappear into the eternal night.

“Paris!” she muttered mechanically, as she lifted her face with a hopeless bewildered prayer.

“Tell me the way to Paris,” she muttered instinctively, and she tried to rise and walk, not well knowing what she did.

The old man laughed a little silently.

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“A‐h‐h‐. Women are the only peaches that roll of their own accord from the wall to the wasp’s nest.”

At the sound of his voice her eyes opened wide upon him; she knew his face again.

“Where am I?” she asked him with a sharp terror in her voice.

“In my house,” he said simply. “I drove by you when you lay on the roadside. I recognised you. When people dream of immortality they generally die in a ditch. You would have died of a single night out there. I sent my people for you. You did not wake. You have slept here five hours.”

“Is this Rioz?” She could not comprehend, a horror seized her lest she should have strayed from Paris back into her mother’s province.

“No. It is another home of mine;’ smaller, but choicer may be. Who has cut your hair close?”

She shuddered and turned paler with the memory of that ghastly prison‐house.

“Well; I am not sure but that you are handsomer,—almost. A sculptor would like you more now,—what a head you would make for an Anteros, or an Icarus, or a Hyacinthus. Yes—you are best so. You have been ill?”

She could not answer; she only stared at him blankly, with sad, mindless, dilated eyes.

“A little gold,” she muttered; “a little gold.”

He looked at her awhile, then rose and went and sent his handwomen, who took her to an inner chamber, and bathed and attended her with assiduous care; she was stupefied and knew not what they did.

They served her tenderly. They bathed her tired limbs and laid her as gently as though she were some wounded royal captive upon a couch of down.

She had no force to resist. Her eyes were heavy, and her senses were obscured. The potence of the draught which they had forced through her lips, when she had been insensible, acted on her as an anodyne. She sank back unconsciously, and she slept again, all through the night and half the day that followed.

Through all the hours she was conscious at intervals of the fragrance of flowers, of the gleams of silver and gold, of the sounds of distant music, of the white calm gaze of page: 423 marble fauns and dryads, who looked on her from amidst the coolness of hanging foilage. She who had never rested on any softer couch than her truss of hay or heap of bracken, dreamed that she slept on roses. The fragrance of innumerable flowers breathed all around her. A distant music came through the silence on her drowsy ear. For the first time in her life of toil and pain she knew how exquisite a pleasure mere repose can be.

At noon she awoke, crying aloud that the Red Mouse claimed her soul from Thanatos.

When her vision cleared, and her dream passed away, the music, the flowers, the colour, the coolness, were all real around her. She was lying on a couch as soft as the rose‐beds of Sybaris. About her were the luxuries and the graces amidst which the rich dwell. Above her head, from a golden height, a painted Eros smiled.

The light, on to which her startled eyes opened, came to her veiled through soft, rosy hues; the blossom of flowers met her everywhere, glided lattices and precious stones, and countless things for which she knew neither the name nor use, and wondrous plants, with birds like living blossoms on the wing above them, and the marble heads of women, rising cold and pure above the dreamy shadows—all the colour, and the charm, and the silence, and the grace of the life that is rounded by wealth was around her.

She lay silent and breathless awhile, with wide open eyes, motionless from the languor of her weakness and the confusion of her thoughts, wondering dully, whether she belonged to the hosts of the living or the dead. She was in a small sleeping chamber, in a bed like the cup of a lotus; there was perfect silence round her, except for the faint far‐off echo of some music; a drowsy subtle fragrance filled the air, the solemn measure of a clock’s pendulum deepened the sense of stillness; for the first time in her life she learned how voluptuous a thing the enjoyment of simple rest can be. All her senses were steeped in it, lulled by it, magnetised by it; and, so far as every thought was conscious to her, she thought that this was death—death amidst the fields of asphodel, and in the eternal peace of the realm of Thanatos.

Suddenly her eyes fell on a familiar thing, a little picture close at hand, the picture of herself amidst the poppies.

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She leapt from the bed, and fell before it, and clasped it in her arms, and wept over it and kissed it, because it had been the work of his hand, and prayed to the unknown gods to make her suffer all things in his stead, and to give him the desire of his soul. And the Red Mouse had no power on her, because of her great love.

She arose from that prayer with her mind clear, and her nerves strung; she remembered all that had chanced to her.

“Where are my clothes?” she muttered to the serving‐women who watched beside her. “It is broad day;—I must go on;—to Paris.”

They craved her to wear the costly and broidered stuffs strewn about her; masterpieces of many an eastern and southern loom; but she put them all aside in derision and impatience, drawing around her with a proud loving action the folds of her own poor garments. Weather‐stained, torn by bush and briar, soaked with night dew, and discoloured by the dye of many a crushed flower and bruised berry of the fields and woods, she yet would not have exchanged these poor shreds of woven flax and goats’ wool against imperial roves, for poor though they were, they were the symbols of her independence and her liberty.

The women tended her gently, and pressed on her many rare and fair things, but she would not have them; she took a cup of milk, and passed out into the larger chamber.

She was troubled and bewildered, but she had no fear; for she was too innocent, too wearied, and too desperate with that deathless courage, which having borne the worst that fate can do, can know no dread.

She stood with her arms folded on her breast, drawing together the tattered folds of the tunic, gazing at the luxury, and the blended colour of the room. So softly, that she never heard his footfall, the old man entered behind her, and came to the hearth, and looked on her.

“You are better?” he asked. “Are you better, Folle‐Farine.”

She looked up, and met the eyes of Sartorian. They smiled again on her with the smile of the Red Mouse.

The one passion which consumed her was stronger than any fear or any other memory: she only though—this man must know?

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She sprang forward and grasped his arm with both hands, with the seizure of a tigress; her passionate eyes searched his face; her voice came hard and fast.

“What have you done?—is he living or dead?—you must know?”

His eyes still smiled:

“I gave him his golden key;—how he should use it, that was not in our bond. But, truly, I will make another bond with you any day, Folle‐Farine.”

She shuddered, and her hands dropped from their hold.

“You know nothing?” she murmured.

“Of your Norse‐god? nay, nothing. An eagle soars too high for a man’s sight to follow, you know—oftentimes.”

And he laughed his little soft laugh.

The eagle often soared so high—so high—that the icy vapours of the empyrean froze them dead, and they dropped to earth a mere, bruised, helpless, useless mass:—he knew.

She stood stunned and confused: her horror of Sartorian was struggling into life through the haze in which all things of the past were still shrouded to her dulled remembrance—all things save her love.

“Rest awhile,” he said, gently. “Rest; and we may—who knows?—learn something of your northern god. First; tell me of yourself. I have sought for tidings of you vainly.”

Her eyes glanced round her on every side.

“Let me go,” she muttered.

“Nay—a moment yet. You are not well.”

“I am well.”

“Indeed. Then wait a moment.”

She rested where he motioned; he looked at her in smiling wonder.

She leaned on one of the cushioned couches, calm, motionless, negligent, giving no sign that she saw the chamber round her to be any other than the wooden barn or thatched cattle‐sheds of the old mill‐house; her feet were crossed, her limbs were folded in that exquisite repose which is inborn in races of the East; the warmth of the room, and the long hours of sleep had brought the natural bloom to her face, the natural lustre to her eyes, which earlier fatigue and long illness had banished.

He surveyed her with that smile which she had resented page: 426 on the day when she had besought pity of him for Arslàn’s sake.

“Do you not eat?” was all he said.

“Not here.”

He laughed his low humorous laugh that displeased her so bitterly, though it was soft of tone.

“And all those silks, and stuffs, and laces—do they please you no better?”

“They are not mine.”

“Pooh! do you not know yet? A female thing, as beautiful as you are, makes hers everything she looks upon?”

“That is a fine phrase.”

“And an empty one you think. On my soul! no. Everything you see here is yours, if it please you.”

She looked at him with dreaming perplexed eyes.

“What do you want of me?” she said, suddenly.

“Nay—why ask? All men are glad to give to women with such a face as yours.”

She laughed a little; with the warmth, the rest, the wonder, the vague sense of some unknown danger, her old skill and courage rose. She knew that she had promised to be grateful always to this man; otherwise,—oh, God!—how she could have hated him, she thought!

“Why?” she answered, “why? Oh, only this: when I bought a measure of pears for Flamma in the market‐place, the seller of them would sometimes pick me out a big yellow bon‐chrétien, soft as butter, sweet as sugar, and offer it to me for myself. Well, when he did that, I always knew that the weight was short, or the fruit rotten. This is a wonderful pear you would give me; but is your measure false?”

He looked at her with a curious wonder and admiration; he was angered, humbled, incensed, and allured, and yet he was glad; she looked so handsome thus with the curl on her quiet lips, and her spirited head fit for a bronze cast of Atalanta.

He was an old man; he could bear to pause and rightly appreciate the charm of scorn, the spur of irony, the goad of hatred. He knew the full value of its sharp spears to the wonder‐blooming aloe.

He left the subject for a happier moment, and seating page: 427 himself, opened his hands to warm them by the wood fire, still watching her with that smile, which for its very indulgence, its very banter, she abhorred.

“You lost your Norse‐god as I prophesied?” he asked carelessly.

He saw her whole face change as with a blow, and her body bend within itself as a young tree bends under a storm.

“He went when you gave him the gold,” she said below her breath.

“Of course he went. You would have him set free,” he said, with the little low laugh still in his throat. “Did I not say you must dream of nothing else if once you had him freed. You would be full of faith; and unbar your eagle’s prison‐house, and then, because he took wing through the open‐door, you wonder still. That is not very wise, Folle‐Farine.”

“I do not wonder,” she said, with fierce effort stifling her misery. “He had a right to do as he would: have I said any otherwise?”

“No. You are very faithful still, I see. Yet, I cannot think that you believed my prophecy, or you—a woman had never been so strong. You think I can tell you of his fate? Nay, on my soul I know nothing. Men do not speak his name. He may be dead;—you shrink? So! can it matter so much? He is dead to you. He is a great man, but he is a fool. Half his genius would give him the fame he wants with much greater swiftness than the whole ever will. The world likes talent, which serves it. It hates genius, which rules it. Men would adore his technical treatment, his pictorial magnificence, his anatomical accuracy; but they will always be in awe of his intensity of meaning, of his marvellous fertility, of his extraordinary mingling of the chilliest of idealism, and the most unsparing of sensualities,—but I talk idly. Let us talk of you; see, I chose your likeness, and he let me have it—did you dream that he would part with it so lightly?”

“Why not? He had a million things more beautiful?”

He looked at her keenly. He could measure the superb force of this unblenching and mute courage.

“In any other creature such an humility would be an hypocrisy. But it is not so in you. Why will you carry page: 428 yourself as in an enemy’s house? Will you not even break your fast with me? Nay, that is sullen, that is barbaric. Is there nothing that can please you? See here,—all women love these; the gipsy as well as the empress. Hold them a moment.”

She took them; old oriental jewels lying loose in an agate cup on a table near; there were amongst them three great sapphires, which in their way were priceless, from their rare size and their perfect colour.

Her mouth laughed with its old scorn. She, who had lost life, soul, earth, heaven, to be consoled with the glass beads of a bauble! This man seemed to her more foolish than any creature that had ever spoken on her ear.

She looked, then laid them—indifferently—down.

“Three sparrow’s eggs are as big and almost as blue, among the moss in any month of May!”

He moved them away, chagrined.

“How do you intend to live?” he asked drily.

“It will come as it comes,” she answered with the fatalism and composure that ran in her eastern blood.

“What have you done up to this moment since you left my house at Rioz?”

She told him, briefly; she wanted to hide that she had suffered aught, or had been in any measure coldly dealt with, and she spoke with the old force of a happier time, seeking rather to show how well it was with her that she should thus be free, and have no law save her own will, and knew that none lived who could say to her, “Come hither,” or “go there.”

Almost she duped him, she was so brave. Not quite. His eyes had read the souls and senses of women for half a century; and none had ever deceived him. As he listened to her he knew well that under her desolation and her solitude her heart was broken—though not her courage.

But he accepted her words as she spoke them. “Perhaps you are wise to take your fate so lightly,” he said to her. “But, do you know that it is a horrible thing to be alone and penniless and adrift, and without a home or a friend, when one is a woman and young?”

“It is worse when one is a woman, and old; but who pities it then?” she said with the curt and caustic meaning that had first allured him in her.

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“And a woman is so soon old!” he added with as subtle a significance.

She shuddered a little; no female creature that is beautiful and vigorous and young can coldly brook to look straight at the doom of age; death is far less appalling, because death is uncertain, mystical, and may still have beauty.

“What do you intend to do with yourself?” he pursued.

“Intend! It is for the rich ‘to intend,’ the poor must take what chances.”

She spoke calmly, leaning down on one of the cushioned benches by the hearth, resting her chin on her hand; her brown slender feet were crossed one over another, her eye‐lids were heavy from weakness and the warmth of the room; the soft dim light played on her tenderly; he looked at her with a musing smile.

“No beautiful woman need ever be poor,” he said, slowly spreading out the delicate palms of his hands to the fire; “and you are beautiful—exceedingly.”

“I know!” she gave a quick gesture of her head, tired, insolent, indifferent; and a terrible darkness stole over her face; what matter how beautiful she might be, she had no beauty in her own sight, for the eyes of Arslàn had dwelt on her, cold, calm, unmoved, whilst he had said, “I would love you—if I could.”

“You know your value,” Sartorian said drily. “Well then, why talk of poverty and of your future together? they need never be companions in this world.”

She rose and stood before him in the rosy glow of the fire that bathed her limbs until they glowed like jade and porphyry.

“No beautiful woman need be poor—no—no beautiful woman need be honest, I dare say.”

He smiled, holding his delicate palms to the warmth of his hearth.

“Your lover drew a grand vision of Barabbas. Well—we choose Barabbas still, just as Jerusalem chose; only now, our Barabbas is most often a woman. Why do you rise? It is a wet day, out there, and, for the spring time, cold.”

“Is it?”

“And you have been ill?”

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“So they say.”

“You will die of cold and exposure.”

“So best.”

“Wait a moment. In such weather I would not let a dog stir.”

“You would if the dog chose to go.”

“To a master who forsook it—for a kick and a curse?”

Her face burned; she hung her head instinctively. She sank down again on the seat which she had quitted. The old horror of shame which she had felt by the water side under the orchards bent her strength under this man’s unmerciful passion. She knew that he had her secret, and the haughty passion and courage of her nature writhed under his taunt of it.

“To refuse to stay is uncouth,” he said to her.

“I am uncouth, no doubt.”

“And it is ungrateful.”

“I would not be that.”

“Ungrateful! I did what you asked of me. I unloosed your Othyr of Art to spend his strength as he will, in essaying to raise a storm blast which shall have force enough to echo through the endless tunnels of the time to come.”

“You gave him a handful of gold pieces for that!

“Ah! if you thought that I should offer him the half of my possessions you were disappointed, no doubt. But you forgot that ‘that’ would not sell in the world, as yet, for a handful of wheat.”

She touched the three sapphires.

“Are your blue stones of less worth, because I, being ignorant, esteem them no more value than three sparrows’ eggs in the hedge?”

“My poor jewels! Well, stay here to‐night, you need rest, shelter, and warmth; and to‐morrow you shall go as poor as you came, if you wish. The world is very hard. The world is always winter—to the poor,” he added, carelessly, resting his keen far‐reaching eyes upon her.

Despite herself she shuddered; he recalled to her that the world was close at hand—the world in which she would be houseless, friendless, penniless, alone.

“A hard world, to those who will not worship its gods,” he repeated, musingly. “And you astray in it, you poor barbarian, with your noble madness, and your blindness of page: 431 faith and of passion. Do you know what it is to be famished, and have none to hear your cries?”

“Do I know?” her voice suddenly gathered strength and scorn, and rang loud on the stillness. “Do you? The empty dish, the chill stove, the frozen feet, the long nights, with the roof dripping rain, the sour berries and hard roots that mock hunger, the mud floors, with the rats fighting to get first at your bed, the bitter black months, whose saints’ days are kept by new pains, and whose holy days are feasted by fresh diseases. Do I know? Do you?

He did not answer her; he was absorbed in his study of her face; he was thinking how she would look in Paris in some theatre’s spectacle of Egypt, with anclets of dull gold and a cymar of dead white, and behind her a sea of palms and a red and sullen sky.

“What a fool he must have been,” he thought, as his eyes went from her to the study of her sleeping in the poppies. “What a fool, he left his lantern of Aladdin behind him.”

“You remember unlovely things,” he said aloud. “No, I do not know them; and I should not have supposed that you, who did, could so much have cared to know them more, or could have clung to them as the only good; as you now seem to do. You cannot love such hardships?”

“I have never known luxuries; and I do not wish to know them.”

“Then you are no woman,—what is your idea of the most perfect life?”

“I do not know—to be always in the open air and to be quite free, and for ever to see the sun.”

“Not a low ideal. You must await the Peruvian Paradise. Meanwhile there is a day spring that represents the sun not ill; we call it Wealth.”

“Ah!” she could not deride this god, for she knew it was the greatest of them all; when the rod of riches had been lost, had not the Far‐Striking King himself been brought low and bound down to a slave’s drudgery?

The small, keen, elfin, satiric face bent on her did not change from its musing study, its slow vigilant smile; holding her under the subtle influence of his gaze, Sartorian began to speak,—speak as he could at choice, with accents sweet as silver, slow words persuasive as sorcery. With the terse, page: 432 dainty, facile touches of a master, he placed before her that world of which she knew no more than any one of the reeds that blew by the sands of the river.

He painted to her that life of all others, which was in most vital contrast and unlikeliness to her own; the life of luxury, of indolence, of carelessness, of sovereignty, of endless pleasure, and supreme delight; he painted to her the years of a woman rich, caressed, omnipotent, beautiful, supreme, with all the world before her from which to choose her lovers, her playthings, her triumphs, her victories, her cruelties, and her seductions.

He painted the long cloudless invigorating day of such a favourite of fortune, with its hours winged by love and its laughter rhymed to music, and its wishes set to gold; the same day for the same woman, whether it were called of Rome or of Corinth, of Byzantium or of Athens, of Babylon or of Paris, and whether she herself were hailed hetaira or imperatrix. He drew such things as the skill of his words and the deep knowledge of his many years enabled him, in language which aroused her even from the absorption of her wretchedness, and stirred her dull disordered thoughts to a movement of restless discontent, and of strange wonder—Arslàn had never spoken to her thus.

He let his words dwell silently on her mind, awhile: then suddenly he asked her,

“Such lives are; do you not envy them?”

She thought—“envy them? she? what could she envy save the eyes that looked on Arslàn’s face?” “What were the use?” she said aloud; “all my life I have seen that all things are for others; nothing is for me.”

“Your life is but just opening. Henceforth you shall see all things for you, instead.”

She flashed her eyes upon him.

“How can that be?”

“Listen to me; you are alone in the world, Folle‐Farine?”

“Alone; yes.”

“You have not a coin to stand a day between you and hunger?”

“Not one.”

“You know of no roof that will shelter you for so much as a night?”

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“Not one.”

“You have just left a public place of pestilence?”


“And you know that everyone’s hand is against you because you are nameless and bastard, and come of a proscribed people, who are aliens alike in every land?”

“I am Folle‐Farine; yes.”

For a moment he was silent. The simple, pathetic acceptance of the fate that made her name—merely because hers—a symbol of all things despised, and desolate, and forsaken, touched his heart and moved him to a sorrowful pity. But the pity died, and the cruelty remained alive behind it.

He bent on her the magnetic power of his bright, sardonic, meaning eyes.

“Well—be Folle‐Farine still. Why not? But let Folle‐Farine mean no longer a beggar, an outcast, a leper, a thing attainted, proscribed, and for ever suspected; but let it mean on the ear of every man that hears it the name of the most famous, the most imperious, the most triumphant, the most beautiful woman of her time; a woman of whom the world says, ‘Look on her face and die—you have lived enough.’”

Her breath came and went as she listened: the blood in her face flushed and paled; she trembled violently, and her whole frame seemed to dilate and strengthen and vibrate with the electric force of that subtlest temptation.

“I!” she murmured brokenly.

“Yes, you. All that I say to you shall be: homeless, tribeless, nameless, nationless, thought you stand there now, Folle‐Farine.”

The wondrous promise swept her fancy for the moment on the strong current of its imagery, as a river sweeps a leaf. This empire hers?—hers?—when all mankind had driven and derided her and shunned her sight and touch, and cursed and flouted her, and barely thought her worthy to be called “thou dog!”

He looked at her and smiled, and bent towards the warmth of the fire.

“All that I say you shall be; and—the year is all winter for the poor, Folle‐Farine.”

The light on her face faded; a sudden apprehension page: 434 tightened at her heart; on her face gathered the old fierce deadly antagonism which constant insult and attack had taught her to assume on the first instant of menace as her only buckler.

She knew not what evil threatened; but vaguely she felt that treason was close about her.

“If you do not mock me,” she said slowly, “if you do not—how will you make me what you promise?”

“I will show the world to you, you to the world; your beauty will do the rest.”

The darkness and the perplexed trouble deepened on her face; she rose and stood and looked at him, her teeth shut together with a quick sharp ring, her straight proud brows drew together in stormy silence; all the tigress in her was awoke and rising ready to spring; yet amidst that dusky passion, that withering scorn of doubt, there was an innocent pathetic wonder, a vague desolation and disappointment, that were childlike and infinitely sad.

“This is a wondrous pear you offer me!” she said bitterly. “And so cheap?—it must be rotten somewhere.”

“It is golden. Who need ask more?”

And he laughed his little low laugh in his throat.

Then, and then only, she understood him.

With a sudden unconscious instinctive action her hand sought her knife, but the girdle was empty; she sprang erect, her face on fire with a superb fury, her eyes blazing, like the eyes of a wild beast’s by night, a magnificence of scorn and rage upon her quivering features.

Her voice rang clear and hard and cold as ring the blows of steel.

“I ask more,—that I should pluck it with clean hands, and eat of it with pure lips. Strange quibble for a beggar,—homeless, penniless, tribeless, nationless? So you think, no doubt. But we who are born outlawed are born free,—and do not sell our freedom. Let me go.”

He watched her with a musing smile, a dreamy calm content; all this tempest of her scorn, all this bitterness of her disdain, all this whirlwind of her passion and her suffering, seemed but to beguile him more and make him surer of her beauty, of her splendour, of her strength.

“She would be a great creature to show to the world,” he thought, as he drooped his head and watched her through page: 435 his half‐closed eyelids, as the Red Mouse watched the sleeper in the poppies. “Let you go?” he said with that slow ironic smile— “ let you go? Why should I let you go—Folle‐Farine?”

“Why? Why? To save your own life—if you are wise.”

He laughed in his throat again.

“Ah, ah! It is never wise to threaten, Folle‐Farine. I do not threaten. You are foolish; you are unreasonable; and that is the privilege of a woman. I am not angered at it. On the contrary; it adds to your charm. You are a beautiful, reckless, stubborn, half mad, half savage creature. Passion and liberty become you,—become you like your ignorance and ferocity. I would not for worlds that you should change them.”

“Let me go,” she cried, across his words.

“Oh fool! the winter will be hard,—and you are bare of foot,—and you have not a crust!”

“Let me go.”

“Ah! Go?—to beg your way to Paris, and to creep through the cellars and the hospitals till you can see your lover’s face, and to crouch a moment at his feet to hear him mutter a curse on you in payment for your pilgrimage; and then to slit your throat or his—in your despair, and lie dead in all your loveliness in the common ditch.”

“Let me go, I say!”

“Or else, more like, come back to me in a week’s time and say, ‘I was made but now I am wise. Give me the golden pear. What matter a little speck? What is golden may be rotten; but to all lips it is sweet.”

“Let me go!”

She stood at bay before him, pale in her scorn of rage, her right hand clenched against her breast, her eyes breathing fire, her whole attitude instinct with the tempest of contempt and loathing, which she held down thus, passive and almost wordless, because she once had promised never to be thankless to this man.

He gazed at her and smiled, and thought how beautiful that chained whirlwind of her passions looked; but he did not touch her nor even go nearer to her. There was a dangerous gleam in her eyes that daunted him. Moreover page: 436 he was patient, humorous, gentle, cruel, wise—all in one; and he desired to tame and to beguile her, and to see her slowly drawn into the subtle sweetness of the powers of gold; and to enjoy the yielding of each moral weakness one by one, as the southern boy slowly pulls limb from limb, wing from wing, of the cicada.

“I will let you go—surely,” he said, with his low grim laugh. “I keep no woman prisoner against her will. But think one moment longer, Folle‐Farine. You will take no gift at my hands?”


“You want to go,—penniless as you are?”

“I will go so; no other way.”

“You will fall ill on the road afresh.”

“That does not concern you.”

“You will starve.”

“That is my question.”

“You will have to herd with the street dogs.”

“Their bite is better than your welcome.”

“You will be suspected,—most likely imprisoned. You are an outcast.”

“That may be.”

“You will be driven to public charity.”

“Not till I need a public grave.”

“You will have never a glance of pity, never a look of softness, from your northern god; he has no love for you, and he is in his grave most likely. Icarus falls—always.”

For the first time she quailed as though struck by a sharp blow; but her voice remained inflexible and serene.

“I can live without love or pity, as I can without home or gold. Once for all,—let me go.”

“I will let you go,” he said slowly, as he moved a little away. “I will let you go in seven days’ time. For seven days you shall do as you please; eat, drink, be clothed, be housed, be feasted, be served, be beguiled—as the rich are. You shall taste all these things that gold gives, and which you, being ignorant, dare rashly deride and refuse. If when seven days end you still choose, you shall go, and as poor as you came. But you will not choose, for you are woman, Folle‐Farine!”

Ere she knew his intent he had moved the panel and drawn it behind him, and left her alone,—shut in a trap page: 437 like the birds that Claudis Flamma had netted in his orchards.

That night, when the night without was quite dark, she knelt down before the study of the poppies, and kissed it softly, and prayed to the unknown God, of whom none had taught her in anywise, yet whose light she still had found, and followed in a dim wondering imperfect fashion, as a little child lost in the twilight of some pathless wood, pursues in trembling the gleam of some great still planet looming far above her through the leaves.

When she arose from her supplication, her choice was already made.

And the Red Mouse had no power on her, because of her great love.


AT sunrise a great peacock trailing his imperial purple on the edge of a smooth lawn, pecked angrily at a torn fragment of a scarlet scarf; a scarf that had been woven in his own eastern lands, but which incensed his sight, fluttering there so idly, as it seemed, on the feathery sprays of a little low almond tree that grew by the water’s edge.

The water was broad, and full of lily leaves and of rare reeds and rushes; it had been so stemmed and turned by art that it washed the basement walls and mirrored the graceful galleries and arches of the garden palace, where the birds of Hêrê dwelt.

Twenty feet above the level of the gardens, where the peacock swept in the light, there was an open casement, a narrow balcony of stone; a group of pale human faces looking out awe‐stricken. A leap in the night—the night wet and moonless,—waters a fathom deep,—a bed of sand treacherous and shifting as the ways of love. What could all these be save certain death? Of death they were afraid; but they were more afraid yet of the vengeance of their flute‐voiced lord.

On the wall the Red Mouse sat amongst the flowers of page: 438 sleep; he could have told; he who for once had heard another prayer than the blasphemies of the Brocken.

But the Red Mouse never tells any secret to men; he has lived too long in the breast of the women whom men love.

The sun came from the east, and passed through the pale stricken faces that watched from the casement, and came straight to where the Red Mouse sat amidst the poppies.

“Have you let a female soul escape you?” said the Sun.

The Red Mouse answered:

“Love is stronger than I. When he keeps his hands pure, where he guards the door of the soul, I enter not. I sit outside and watch, and watch, and watch. But it is time lost. Love is strong; the door is barred to me.”

Said the Sun,

“That is strange to hear. My sister, the Moon, has told me oftentimes that Eros is your pander—always.”

“Anteros only,” said the Red Mouse.

The Sun, wondering, said again:

“And yet I have heard that it is your boast that into every female soul you enter at birth, and dwell there unto death. Is it, then, not so?”

The Red Mouse answered:

“The boast is not mine, it is man’s.”


IN the dark of night she had leapt to what, as she thought, would prove her grave; but the waters with human‐like caprice had cast her back upon the land with scarce an effort of her own. Given back thus to life, whether she would or no, she by sheer instinct stumbled to her feet and fled as fast as she could in the wet gloomy night through the grassy stretches of the unknown gardens and lands in which she found herself.

She was weighted with her soaked clothes as with lead, but she was made swift by terror and hatred, as though Hermes for once had had pity for anything human, and had fastened to her feet his own winged sandals.

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She ran on and on, not knowing whither; only knowing that she ran from the man who had tempted her by the strength of the rod of wealth.

The rains were ceaseless, the skies had no stars, in the dense mist no lights, far or near, of city or planets, of palace or house, were seen. She did not know where she went; she only ran on away and away, anywhere, from the Red Mouse and its master.

When the daybreak grew grey in the heavens, she paused, and trembling crept into a cattle shed to rest and take breath a little. She shrank from every habitation, she quivered at every human voice; she was afraid—horribly afraid—in those clinging vapours, those damp deathly smells, those ghostly shadows of the dawn, those indistinct and unfamiliar creatures of a country strange to her.

That old man with the elf’s eyes, who had tempted her, was he a god too, she wondered, since he had the rod that metes power and wealth? He might stretch his hand anywhere, she supposed, and take her.

The gentle cattle in their wooden home made way for her, and humbly welcomed her. She hid herself amongst their beds of hay, and in the warmth of their breath and their bodies. She was wet and wretched, like any half drowned dog; but the habits of her hardy life made cold and hunger and exposure almost powerless to harm her. She slept from sheer exhaustion of mind and body. The cattle could have trodden her to death, or tossed her through the open spaces of their byres, but they seemed to know, they seemed to pity; and they stirred so that they did not brush a limb of her, nor shorten a moment of her slumbers.

When she awoke the sun was high.

A herdswoman, entering with the loud harsh clash of brazen pails, kicked her in the loins, and rated her furiously for daring to rest there. She arose at the kick, and went out from the place passively, not well knowing what she did.

The morning was warm and radiant; the earth and the trees were dripping with the rains of the night; the air was full of sweet odours, and of a delicious coldness. As far as she saw there was no token far or near of the gleaming cloud of the city of her dreams. She ventured to ask at a wayside cabin is she were near or far to Paris?

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The woman of the cottage looked up searchingly from the seat before the porch, and for answer cried to her: “Paris! pouf‐f‐f! get out, you drowned rat.”

She had lost for the time the mental force, and even the physical force, to resent or to persevere; she was weak with hunger and bewildered with her misery. She had only sense enough left to remember—and be thankful—that in the night that was past she had been strong.

The sun beat on her head, the road was hard, and sharp set with flint; she was full of pain, her brain throbbed with fever and reeled with weakness; a sudden horror seized her lest she might die before she had looked again on the face of Arslàn.

She saw the dusky shade of a green wood; by sheer instinct she crept into it as a stricken deer into its sanctuary.

She sat in the darkness of the trees in the coolness of the wood, and rested her head on her hands, and let the big salt tears drop one by one, as the death tears of the llama fall.

This was the young year round her; that she knew.

The winter had gone by; its many months had passed over her head whilst she was senseless to any flight of night or day; death might have taken the prey which it had once been robbed of by her; in all this weary season, which to her was as a blank, his old foes of failure and famine might have struggled for and vanquished him, she not being by; his body might lie in any plague‐ditch of the blameless poor, his hand might rot fleshless and nerveless in any pit where the world cast its useless and dishonoured dead; the mould of his brain might make a feast for eyeless worms, not more stone blind that was the human race he had essayed to serve; the beauty of his face might be a thing of loathsomeness from which a toad would turn. Oh, God! would death never take her likewise? Was she an outcast even from that one tribeless and uncounted nation of the dead?

That God whom she had loved, whom she had chosen, whose eyes had been so full of pity, whose voice had murmured: “Nay, the wise know me as man’s only friend”:—even he, Thanatos, had turned against her and abandoned her.

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Vague memories of things which she had heard in fable and tradition, of bodies accursed and condemned to wander for ever unresting and wailing of spirits, which for their curse were imprisoned in a living flesh that they could neither lose nor cast away so long as the world itself endured; creatures that the very elements had denied, and that were too vile for fire to burn, or water to drown, or steel to slay, or old age to wither, or death to touch and take in any wise. All these memories returned to her, and in her loneliness she wondered if she were such an one as these.

She did not know, indeed, that she had done any great sin; she had done none willingly, and yet all people called her vile, and they must know?

Even the old man, mocking her, had said:

“Never wrestle with Fate. He throws the strongest, soon or late. And your fate is shame; it was your birth gift, it will be your burial cloth. Can you cast if off? No. But you can make it potent as gold, and sweet as honey if you choose, Folle‐Farine.”

And she had not chosen; yet of any nobility in the resistance she did not dream. She had shut her heart to it by the unconscious instinct of strength, as she had shut her lips under torture, and shut her hand against gold.

She sat there in the wood, roofless, penniless, friendless, and every human creature was against her. Her temper had spoken only the bare and bleak truth. A dog stoned and chased and mad could be the only living thing on the face of the earth more wretched and more desolate than herself.

The sun of noon was bright above head in a cloudless sky, but in the little wood it was cool and shady, and had the moisture of a heavy morning dew. Millions of young leaves had uncurled themselves in the warmth. Little butterflies, some azure, some yellow, some white, danced in the light. Brown rills of water murmured under the grasses, the thrushes sang to one another through the boughs, and the lizard darted hither and thither, green as the arrowy leaves that made its shelter.

A little distance from her there was a group of joyous singers who looked at her from time to time, their laughter page: 442 hushing a little, and their simple carousal under the green boughs broken by a nameless chilliness and involuntary speculation. She did not note them, her face being bowed down upon her hands, and no sound of the thrushes’ song or of the human singers’ voices rousing her from the stupefaction of despair which drugged her senses.

They watched her long; her attitude did not change.

One of them at length rose up and went hesitating a step or two forwards; a girl with twinkling feet, clad gaily in bright colours, though the texture of her clothes was poor.

She went and touched the crouched sad figure, softly.

“Are you in trouble?”

The figure lifted its bowed head, its dark hopeless eyes.

“It is no matter, I am only—tired.”

“Are you all alone?”


“Come and sit with us a moment. You are in the damp and the gloom; we are so pleasant and sunny there. Come.”

“You are good, but let me be.”

The blue‐eyed girl called to the others. They lazily rose and came.

“Heaven! she is handsome!” the men muttered to one another.

She looked straight at them all, and let them be.

“You are all alone?” they asked her again.

“Always,” she answered them.

“You are going—where?”

“To Paris.”

“What to do there?”

“I do not know.”

“You look wet—suffering—what is the matter?”

“I was nearly drowned last night—an accident—it is nothing.”

“Where have you slept?”

“In a shed: with some cattle.”

“Could yo get no shelter in a house?”

“I did not seek any.”

“What do you do? What is your work?”


“What is your name?”

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“That means the chaff;—less than the chaff;—the dust.”

“It means me.”

“They were silent, only bending on her their bright curious eyes.

They saw that she was unspeakably wretched; that some great woe or shock had recently fallen on her, and given her glance that startled horror and blanched her rich skin to an ashen pallor, and frozen, as it were, the very current of the young blood in her veins.

They were silent a little space. Then whispered together.

“Come with us,” they urged. “We too go to Paris. We are poor. We follow art. We will befriend you.”

She was deaf to them long; being timid and wild of every human thing. But they were urgent; they were eloquent; these young girls with their bright eyes; these men who spoke of art; these wanderers who went to the great city.

In the end they pressed on her their companionship. They too were going to Paris; they spoke of perils she would run, of vouchers she would need: she wondered at their charity, but in the end walked on with them—fearing the Red Mouse.

They were mirthful gentle people, so she thought; they said they followed art; they told her she could never enter Paris nameless and alone: so she went. The chief of the little troop watched wonderingly her step, her posture, her barbaric and lustrous beauty, brilliant still even through the pallor of grief and the weariness of fatigue; of these he had never seen the like before and he knew their almost priceless value in the world, and of the working classes and street mobs of Paris.

“Listen,” he said suddenly to her. “We shall play to‐night at the next town. Will you take a part?”

Walking along through the glades of the wood, lost in thought, she started at his voice.

“I do not know what you mean?”

“I mean—will you share yourself with us? We will give you no words. It will be quite easy. What money we make we divide amongst us. All you shall do shall be to page: 444 stand and be looked at—you are beautiful and you know it, no doubt?”

She made a weary sign of assent. Beautiful? What could it matter if she were so, or if she were not, what these men thought of it? The beauty that she owned, though so late a precious possession, a crown of glory to her, had lost all its fairness and all its wonder since it had been strengthless to bind to hers, the only heart in which she cared to rouse a throb of passion, since it had been unworthy to draw upon it with any lingering gaze of love the eyes of Arslàn.

He looked at her more closely; this was a strange creature, he thought, who being a woman and in her first youth could thus acknowledge her own loveliness with so much candour, yet so much indifference.

That afternoon they halted at a little town that stood in a dell across the fields, a small place lying close about a great church tower.

It was almost dusk when they entered it; but it was all alive with lights and shows, and trumpets and banners; it was the day of a great fair, and the merry‐go‐rounds were whirling, and the trades in gilded cakes and puppets of sugar were thriving fast, and the narrow streets were full of a happy and noisy peasant crowd.

As soon as the little troop entered the first street a glad cry rose.

They were well known and well liked there; the people clustered by dozens round them, the women greeting them with kisses, the children hugging the dogs, the men clamouring with invitations to eat and to drink and be merry.

They bade her watch them at their art in a rough wooden house outside the wine tavern.

She stood in the shadow and looked as they bade her, while the mimic life of their little stage began and lived its hour.

To the mind which had received its first instincts of art from the cold, lofty passionless creations of Arslàn, from the classic purity and from the divine conception of the old Hellenic ideal, the art of the comic stage could seem but poor and idle mimicry; gaudy and fragrantless as any painted rose of paper blossoming on a tinselled stem.

The crystal truthlessness, the barbaric liberty, the pure page: 445 idealism of her mind and temper revolted in contempt from the visible presentment and the vari‐coloured harlequinade of the comic actor’s art. To her, a note of song, a gleam of light, a shadowy shape, a veiled word, were enough to unfold to her passionate fancy a world of dreams, a paradise of faith and of desire; and for this very cause she shrank away, in amazement an disgust, from this realistic mockery of mere humanity, which left nothing for the imagination to create, which spoke no other tongue than the common language of human quips and jests. It could not touch her, it could not move her; it filled her,—so far as she could bring herself to think of it at all,—with a cold and wondering contempt.

“That is your art?” she said wearily to the actors when they came to her.

“Well, is it not art; and a noble one?”

A scornful shadow swept across her face.

“It is no art. It is human always. It is never divine. There is neither heaven nor hell in it. It is all earth.”

They were sharply stung.

“What has given you such thoughts as that?” they said, in their impatience and mortification.

“I have seen great things,” she said simply, and turned away and went out into the darkness, and wept,—alone.

She who had knelt at the feet of Thanatos, and who had heard the songs of Pan amidst the rushes by the river, and had listened to the charmed steps of Persephone amidst the flowers of the summer;—could she honour lesser gods than these?

“They may forget—they may forsake, and he likewise, but I never,” she thought.

If only she might live a little longer space to serve and suffer for them and for him still; of fate she asked nothing higher.

That night there was much money in the bag. The players pressed a share upon her; but she refused.

“Have I begged from you?” she said. “I have earned nothing.”

It was with exceeding difficulty that they ended in persuading her even to share their simple supper.

She took only bread and water, and sat and watched them curiously.

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The players were in high spirits; their chief ordered a stoup of bright wine, and made merry over it with gayer songs and louder laughter, and more frequent jests than even were his wont.

The men and women of the town came in and out with merry interchange of words. The youths of the little bourg chattered light amorous nonsense; the young girls smiled and chattered in answer; whilst the actors bantered them and made them a hundred love prophecies.

Now and then a dog trotted in to salute the players’ poodles; now and then the quaint face of a pig looked through the legs of its master.

The door stood open; the balmy air blew in; beyond, the stars shone in a cloudless sky.

She sat without in the darkness, where no light fell amongst the thick shroud of one of the blossoming boughs of pear trees, and now and then she looked and watched their laughter and companionship, and their gay and airy buffoonery, together there within the winehouse doors.

“All fools enjoy!” she thought; with that bitter wonder, that aching disdain, that involuntary injustice, with which the strong sad patience of a great nature surveys the mindless merriment of lighter hearts and brains more easily lulled into forgetfulness and content.

They came to her and pressed on her a draught of wine, a share of the food, a handful of the honeyed cates of their simple banquet; even a portion of their silver and copper pieces with which the little leathern sack of their receipts was full,—for once,—to the mouth.

She refused all: the money she threw passionately away.

“Am I a beggar?” she said, in her wrath.

She remained without in the gloom amongst the cool blossoming branches that swayed above‐head in the still night, while the carousal broke up and the peasants went on their way to their homes, singing along the dark streets, and the lights were put out in the wine‐house, and the trill of the grasshopper chirped in the fields around.

“You will die of damp, roofless in the open air this moonless night,” men, as they passed away, said to her in wonder.

“The leaves are roof enough for me,” she answered them: and stayed there with her head resting on the roll of her page: 447 sheepskin; wide‐awake through the calm dark hours; for a bed within she knew that she could not pay, and she would not let any charity purchase one for her.

At daybreak when the others rose she would only take from them the crust that was absolutely needful to keep life in her. Food seemed to choke her as it passed her lips,—since how could she tell but what his lips were parched dry with hunger or were blue and cold in death?

That morning, as they started, one of the two youths who bore their travelling gear and the rude appliances of their little stage upon his shoulders from village to village when they journeyed thus—being oftentimes too poor to permit themselves any other mode of transit and of porterage—fell lame and grew faint and was forced to lay down his burden by the roadside.

She raised the weight upon her back and head as she had been wont to do the weights of timber and of corn for the mill‐house and bore it onward.

In vain they remonstrated with her; she would not yield, but carried the wooden framework and the folded canvasses all through the heat and weariness of the noonday.

“You would have me eat of your supper last night. I will have you accept of my payment to‐day,” she said, stubbornly.

For this seemed to her a labour innocent and just, and even full of honour whatever men might say: had not Helios himself been bound as a slave in Thessaly?

They journeyed far that day, along straight sunlit highways, and under the shadows of green trees. The fields were green with the young corn and the young vines; the delicate plumes of the first blossoming lilacs nodded in their footsteps; the skies were blue; the earth was fragrant.

At noonday the players halted and threw themselves down beneath a poplar tree, in a wild rose thicket, to eat their noonday meal of bread and a green cress salad.

The shelter they had chosen was full of fragrance from rain drops still wet upon the grasses, and the budding rose vines. The hedge was full of honeysuckle and tufts of cowslips; the sun was warmer; the mild‐eyed cattle came and looked at them; little redstarts picked up their crumbs; from a white vine‐hung cottage an old woman brought them salt and wished them a fair travel.

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But her heart was sick and her feet weary, and she asked always,—“Where is Paris?”

At last they showed it her, that gleaming golden cloud upon the purple haze of the horizon.

She crossed her hands upon her beating breast, and thanked the gods that they had thus given her to behold the city of her dreams.

The chief of the mimes watched her keenly.

“You look at Paris,” he said after a time. “There you may be great if you will.”

“Great? I?”

She echoed the word with weary incredulity. She knew he could but mock at her.

“Aye,” he made answer seriously. “Even you! Why not? There is no dynasty that endures in that golden city save only one—the sovereignty of a woman’s beauty.”

She started and shuddered a little; she thought that she saw the Red Mouse stir amidst the grasses.

“I want no greatness,” she said slowly. “What should I do with it?”

For in her heart she thought:

“What would it serve me to be known to all the world and remembered by all the ages of men if he forget—forget quite?”


THAT night they halted in a little bright village of the leafy and fruitful zone of the city—one of the fragrant and joyous pleasure‐places amongst the woods where the students and the young girls came for draughts of milk and plunder of primroses, and dances by the light of the spring moon, and love‐words murmured as they fastened violets in each other’s breasts.

The next day she entered Paris with them as one of their own people.

“You may be great here, if you choose,” they said to her, and laughed.

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She scarcely heard. She only knew that here it was that Arslàn had declared that fame—or death—should come to him.

The golden cloud dissolved as she drew near to it. A great city might be beautiful to others; to her it was only as its gilded cage is to a mountain bird. The wilderness of roofs, the labyrinth of streets, the endless walls of stone, the ceaseless noises of the living multitude, these were horrible to the free‐born blood of her; she felt blinded, caged, pent, deafened. Its magnificence failed to daunt, its colour to charm, its pageantry to beguile her. Through the glad and gorgeous ways she went, wearily and sick of heart, for the rush of free winds and the width of free skies, as a desert‐born captive, with limbs of bronze and the eyes of the lion, went fettered past the palaces of Rome in the triumphal train of Africanus or Pompeius.

The little band with which she travelled wondered what her eyes so incessantly looked for, in that perpetual intentness with which they searched every knot of faces that was gathered together as a swarm of bees clusters in the sunshine. They could not tell; they only saw that her eyes never lost that look.

“Is it the Past or the Future that you search for always?” the shrewdest of them asked her.

She shuddered a little, and made him no answer. How could she tell which it was?—whether it would be a public fame or a nameless grave that she would light on at the last?

She was a mystery to them.

She minded poverty so little. She was as content on a draught of water and a bunch of cress as others are on rarest meats and wines. She bore bodily fatigue with an Arab’s endurance and indifference. She seemed to care little whether suns beat on her, or storms drenched her to the bone; whether she slept under a roof, or the boughs of a tree; whether the people hissed her for a foreign thing of foul omen, of clamoured aloud in the streets praise of her perfect face. She cared nothing.

She was silent always, and she never smiled.

“I must keep my liberty!” she had said; and she kept it.

By night she toiled ceaselessly for her new masters; docile, patient, enduring, laborious, bearing the yoke of this page: 450 labour as she had borne that of her former slavery, rather than owe a crust to alms, a coin to the gaze of a crowd. But by the day she searched the city ceaselessly and alone, wandering, wandering, always on a quest that was never ended.

For amidst the millions of faces that met her gaze, Arslàn’s was not; and she was too solitary, too ignorant, and locked her secret too tenaciously in her heart, to be able to learn tidings of his name.

So the months of the spring and the summer time went by; it was very strange and wondrous to her.

The human world seemed suddenly all about her; the quiet earth, on which the cattle grazed, and the women threshed and ploughed, and the sheep browsed the thyme, and the mists swept from stream to sea, this was all gone; and in its stead there was a world of tumult, colour, noise, change, riot, roofs piled on roofs, clouds of dust yellow in the sun, walls peopled with countless heads of flowers and of women; throngs, various of hue as garden‐beds of blown anemones; endless harmonies and discords always rung together from silver bells, and brazen trumpets, and the clash of arms, and the spray of waters, and the screams of anguish, and the laughs of mirth, and the shrill pipes of an endless revelry, and the hollow sighs of a woe that had no rest.

For the world of a great city, of “the world as it is man’s,” was all about her; and she loathed it, and sickened in it, and hid her face from it whenever she could, and dreamed, as poets dream in fever of pathless seas and tawny fields of weeds, and dim woods filled with the song of birds, and cool skies brooding over a purple moor, and all the silence and the loveliness and the freedom of “the world as it is God’s.”

“You are not happy?” one man said to her.


She said no more; but he thought, just so had he seen a rose‐crested golden‐eyed bird of the great savannahs look, shut in a cage in a showman’s caravan, and dying slowly, with dulled plumage and drooped head, while the street mob of a town thrust their fingers through the bars and mocked it, and called to it to chatter and be gay.

“Show your beauty once—just once amidst us on the stage, and on the morrow you can choose your riches and page: 451 your jewels from the four winds of heaven as you will,” the players urged on her a hundred times.

But she refused always.

Her beauty—it was given to the gods, to take or to leave, in life or death, for him.

The months went on; she searched for him always. A horrible unending vigil that never seemed nearer its end. Vainly, day by day, she searched the crowds and the solitudes, the gates of the palaces and the vaults of the cellars. She thought she saw him a thousand times; but she could never tell whether it were truth or fancy. She never met him face to face; she never heard his name. There is no desert wider, no maze more unending, than a great city.

She ran hideous peril with every moment that she lived; but by the strength and the love that dwelt together in her she escaped them. Her sad, wide, open, pathetic eyes ever searched only for his face and saw no other; her ear, ever strained to listen for one voice, was dead to every accent of persuasion or of passion.

When men tried to tell her she was beautiful, she looked them full in the eyes and laughed, a terrible dreary laugh of scorn that chilled them to the bone. When the gay groups on balconies, that glanced golden in the sun, flung sweetmeats sweatmeats at her, and dashed wine on the ground, and called to her for her beauty’s sake to join them, she looked at them with a look that had neither envy nor repugnance in it, but only a cold mute weariness of contempt.

One day a great sculptor waylaid her, and showed her a pouch full of money and precious stones. “All that, and more, you shall have, if you will let me make a cast of your face and your body once.” In answer, she showed him the edge of her hidden knife.

One day a young man, unlike to all the ragged and toil‐worn crowds that alone beheld her, came in those crowded quarters of the poor, and watched her with eyes aglow like those of the youth in the old market‐square about the cathedral, and waylaid her, later, in solitude, and slid in her palm a chain studded with precious stones of many colours.

“I am rich,” he murmured to her. “I am a prince. I can make your name a name of power, if only you will come.”

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“Come whither?” she asked him.

“Come with me—only to my supper‐table—for one hour; my horses wait.”

She threw the chain of stones at her feet.

“I have no hunger,” she said, carelessly. “Go, ask those that have to your feast.”

And she gave no other phrase in answer to all the many honeyed and persuasive words with which in vain he urged her, that night and many other night, until he wearied.

One day, in the green outskirts of the city, passing by under a gilded gallery, and a wide window full of flowers, and hung with delicate draperies, there looked out the fair head of a woman, with diamonds in the ears, and a shroud of lace about it, while against the smiling scornful mouth a jewelled hand held a rose; and a woman’s voice called to her, mockingly:

“Has the devil not heard you yet, that you still walk barefoot in the dust on the stones, and let the sun beat on your head? O fool! there is gold in the air, and gold in the dust, and gold in the very gutter here, for a woman!”

And the face was the face, and the voice the voice, of the gardener’s wife of the old town by the sea.

She raised, to the gilded balcony above, her great sorrowful musing eyes, full of startled courage: soon she comprehended; and then her gaze gave back scorn for f r scorn.

“Does that brazen scroll shade you better than did the trellised vine?” she said, with her voice ascending clear in its disdain. “And are those stones in your breast any brighter than the blue was in the eyes of your child?”

The woman above cast the rose at her and laughed, and withdrew from the casement.

She set her heel on the rose, and trod its leaves down in the dust. It was a yellow rose, scentless and comely—an emblem of pleasure and wealth. She left it where it lay, and went onward.

The sweet sins, and all their rich profits, that she might take as easily as she could have taken the rose from the dust, had no power to allure her.

The gilded balcony, the velvet couch, the jewels in the ears, the purple draperies, the ease and the affluence and the joys of the sights and the senses, these to her were as page: 453 powerless to move her envy, these to her seemed as idle as the blow‐balls that a child’s breath floated down the current of a summer breeze.

When once a human ear has heard the whispers of the gods by night steal through the reeds by the river, never again to it can there sound anything but discord and empty sound in the tinkling cymbals of brass, and the fools’ bells of silver, in which the crowds in their deafness imagine the songs of the heroes and the music of the spheres.

“There are only two trades in a city,” said the actors to her, with a smile as bitter as her own, “only two trades—to buy souls and to sell them. What business have you here, who do neither the one nor the other?”

There was music still in this trampled reed of the river, into which the gods had once bidden the stray winds and the wandering waters breathe their melody; but there, in the press, the buyers and the sellers only saw in it a frail thing of the sand and the stream, only made to be woven for barter, or bind together the sheaves of the roses of pleasure.

By‐and‐by they grew so impatient of this soul which knew its right errand so little that it would neither accept temptation itself nor deal it to others, they grew so impatient to receive that golden guerdon from passion and evil which they had foreseen as their sure wage for her when they had drawn her with them to the meshes of the city, that they betrayed her, stung and driven into treachery by the intolerable reproach of her continual strength, her continual silence.

They took a heavy price, and betrayed her to the man who had set his soul upon her beauty, to make it live naked and vile and perfect for all time in marble. She saved herself by such madness of rage, such fury of resistance, as the native tigress knows in the glare of the torches or the bonds of the cords.

She smote the sculptor with her knife; a tumult rose round; voices shouted that he was stabbed; the men who had betrayed her raised loudest the outcry. In the darkness of a narrow street, and of a night of tempest, she fled from them, and buried herself in the dense obscurity which is one of the few privileges of the outcasts.

It was very poor, this quarter where she found refuge; page: 454 men and women at the lowest ebb of life gathered there together. There was not much crime; it was too poor even for that. It was all that piteous, hopeless class that is honest, and suffers and keeps silent—so silent that no one notices when death replaces life.

Here she got leave to dwell a little while in the topmost corner of a high tower, which rose so high, so high, that the roof of it seemed almost like the very country itself. It was so still there, and so fresh, and the clouds seemed so near, and the pigeons flew so close about it all day long, and at night so trustfully sought their roost there.

In a nook of it she made her home: it was very old, very desolate, very barren; yet she could bear it better than she could any lower range of dwelling.

She could see the sunrise and the sunset; she could see the rain‐mists and the planets; she could look down on all the white curl of the smoke; and she could hear the bells ring with a strange peculiar sweetness striking straight to her ear across the wilderness of roofs. And then she had the pigeons: they were not much, but they were something of the old fresh country life; and now and then they brought a head of clover or a spray of grass in their beaks; and at sight of it the tears would rush into her eyes, and though it was pain, it yet a sweeter one than any pleasure that she had.

She maintained herself still without alms, buying her right to live there, and the little food that sufficed for her, by one of those offices in which the very poor contrive to employ those still poorer than themselves.

They slept so heavily, those people who the weight of twenty hours’ toil, the pangs of hunger, and the chills of cold upon them, whenever they laid down, and who would so willingly have slept for ever with any night they laid their heads upon their sacks of rags. But, so long as they woke at all, they needed to wake with the first note of the sparrows in the dark. She, so long used to rise ere ever the first streaks of the day were seen, roused scores of them; and in payment they gave her the right to warm herself at their stove, a handful of their chestnuts, a fragment of their crust, a little copper piece—anything that they could afford or she would consent to take. A woman, who had been the reveilleuse of the quarter many years, had died; and they page: 455 were glad of her;—“Her eyes have no seep in them,” they said; and they found that she never failed.

It was a strange trade—to rise whilst yet for the world it was night, and go to and fro the dreary courts, up and down the gloom of the staircases, and in and out the silent chambers, and call all those sons and daughters of wretchedness from the only peace that their lives knew. So often she felt loath to wake them; so often she stood beside the bundle of straw on which some dreaming creature, sighing and smiling in her sleep, murmured of her home, and had not the heart rudely to shatter those mercies of the night.

It was a strange sad office, to go alone amongst all those sleepers in the stillness that came before the dawn, and move from house to house, from door to door, from bed to bed, with the one little star of her lamp lone burning.

They were all so poor, so poor, it seemed more cruel than murder only to call them from their rest to work, and keep alive in them that faculty of suffering which was all they gained from their humanity.

Her pity for them grew so great that her heart perforce softened to them also. Those strong men gaunt with famine, those white women with their starved children on their breasts, those young maidens worn blind over the needle or the potter’s clay, those little children who staggered up in the dark to go to the furnace, or the wheel, or the powder‐mill, or the potato‐fields outside the walls,—she could neither fear them nor hate them, nor do aught save sorrow for them with a dumb, passionate, wondering grief.

She saw these people despised for no shame, wretched for no sin, suffering eternally, though guilty of no other fault than that of being in too large numbers on an earth too small for the enormous burden of its endless woe. She found that she had companions in her misery, and that she was not alone under that bitter scorn which had been poured on her. In a manner she grew to care for these human creatures, all strangers, yet whose solitude she entered, and whose rest she roused. It was a human interest, a human sympathy. It drew her from the despair that had closed around her.

And some of these in turn loved her.

Neither poverty nor wretchedness could dull the lustrous, page: 456 deep‐hued, flowerlike beauty that was hers by nature. As she ascended the dark stone stairs with the little candle raised above her head, and knocking low entered the place where they slept, the men and the children alike dreamed of strange shapes of paradise and things of sorcery.

“When she wakes us the children never cry,” said a woman whom she always summoned an hour before dawn to rise and walk two leagues to a distant factory. It was new to her to be welcomed, it was new to see the children smile because she touched them. It lifted a little the ice that had closed about her heart.

It had become the height of the summer. The burning days and the sultry nights poured down on her bare head and blinded her, and filled her throat with the dust of the public ways, and parched her mouth with the thirst of over‐driven cattle.

All the while in the hard hot glare she searched for one voice. All the while in the hard brazen din she listened for one voice.

She wandered all the day, half the night. They wondered that she woke so surely with every dawn; they did not know that seldom did she ever sleep. She sought for him always;—sought the busy crowds of the living; sought the burial grounds of the dead.

As she passed through the endless ways in the wondrous city; as she passed by the vast temples of art; as she passed by the open doors of the sacred places which the country had raised to the great memories that it treasured; it became clearer to her—this thing of his desires,—this deathless name amidst a nation, this throne on the awed homage of a world for which his life had laboured and striven, and sickened for and endlessly desired.

The great purpose, the great end, to which he had lived grew tangible and present to her; and in her heart, as she went, she said ever, “Let me only die as the reed died;—what matter,—so that only the world speak his name?”

One night she stood on the height of the leads of the tower. The pigeons had gone to roost; the bells had swung themselves into stillness; far below the changing crowds were moving ceaselessly, but to that calm altitude no sound arose from them. The stars were out, and a great silver moon bathed half the skies in its white glory. In the page: 457 stones of the parapet wind‐sown blossoms blew to and fro heavy with dew.

The day had been one of oppressive heat. She had toiled all through it, seeking—seeking—seeking—what she never found. She was covered with dust; parched with thirst; foot‐weary; sick at heart. She looked down on the mighty maze of the city, and thought—“how long—how long?”

Suddenly a cool hand touched her, a soft voice murmured at her ear.

Turning in the gloom she faced Sartorian. A great terror held her mute and breathless there; gazing in the paralysis of horror at this frail life, which was for her the incarnation of the world, and by whose lips the world said to her,—“Come, eat and drink, and sow your garments with gems, and kiss men on the mouth whilst you slay them, and plunder and poison, and laugh and be wise. For all your gods are dead; and there is but one god now—that god is gold.”

“You must be tired, surely,” the old man said, with soft insistence. “You never find what you seek; you are always alone, always hungered and poor; always wretched,—Folle‐Farine. Ah! you would not eat my golden pear. It was not wise.”

He said so little; and yet—these slow subtle brief phrases pierced her heart with the full force of their odious meaning. She leaned against the wall, breathing hard and fast, mute, for the moment paralysed.

“You fled away from me that night. It was heroic, foolish, mad. Yet I bear no anger against it. You have not loved the old dead gods for nought. You have the temper of their times. You obey them; though they betray you and forget you,—Folle‐Farine.”

She gazed at him, fascinated by her very loathing of him, as the bird by the snake.

“Who told you?” she muttered.

“Who told me, that you dwell here? The sun has a million rays; so has gold a million eyes; do you not know? There is nothing you have not done that has not been known to me. But I can always wait;—Folle‐Farine. You are very strong; you are very weak, of course;—you have a faith; and you follow it; and it leads you on and on, on and on, and one day it will disappear—and you will plunge page: 458 after it,—and it will drown you. You seek for this man and you cannot find even his grave. You are like a woman who seeks for her lover on a battle‐fields. But the world is a carnage where the vultures soon pick bare the bones of the slain, and all skeletons look alike, and are most unlovely—Folle‐ Farine.”

“You came—to say this?” she said, through her locked teeth.

“Nay—I came to see your beauty, your ice‐god tired soon; but I—. My golden pear would have been better vengeance for a slighted passion than this beggar’s quarter, and these wretched rags—.”

She held her misery and her shame, and her hatred alike down under enforced composure.

“There is no shame here,” she said, between her teeth. “A beggar’s quarters, perhaps; but there poor copper coins and these rags I earn with clean hands.”

He smiled with that benignant pity, with that malign mockery, which stung her so ruthlessly.

“No shame? Oh, Folle‐Farine, did I not tell you, that, live as you may, shame will always be your garment in life and in death? You—a thing beautiful, nameless, homeless, accursed, who dares to dream to be innocent likewise! The world will clothe you with shame, whether you choose it or not. But the world, as I say, will give you one choice. Take its red robe boldly from it, and weight it with gold and encrust it with jewels. Believe me, the women who wear the white garments of virtue will envy you the red robe bitterly, then.”

Her arms were crossed upon her breast; her eyes gazed at him with the look he had seen in the gloom of the evening, under the orchards by the side of the rushing mill‐water.

“You came—to say this?”

“Nay; I came to see your beauty, Folle‐Farine. Your northern god soon tired, I say; but I—. Look yonder a moment,” he pursued; and he motioned downward to where the long lines of light gleamed in the wondrous city which was stretched at their feet; and the endless murmur of its eternal sea of pleasure floated dimly to them on the soft night air. “See here, Folle‐Farine: you dwell with the lowest; you are the slave of the street mobs; no eyes see page: 459 you except those of the harlot, the beggar, the thief, the outcast; your wage is a crust and a copper coin; you have the fate of your namesake, the dust, to wander a little while, and then sink on the stones of the streets. Yet that you think worthy and faithful, because it is pure, alike, of alms and of vice. Oh, beautiful fool! what would your lost lover say if beholding you here, amidst the reek of the mob and the homage of thieves? He would say of you the most bitter thing that a man can say of a woman: ‘She has sunk into sin, but she has been powerless to gild her sin, or make it of more profit than her innocence.’ And a man has no scorn like the scorn which he feels for a woman who sells her soul—at a loss. You see?—ah! surely you see, Folle‐Farine?”

She shook like a leaf where she stood, with the yellow and lustrous moonlight about her. She saw—she saw now! And she had been mad enough to dream that if she lived in honesty, and by labour that she loathed won back, with hands clean of crime as of alms, the gold which he had left as the wages of her beauty, and found him and gave it to him without a word, he would at least believe—believe so much as this, that her hunger had been famine, and her need misery, and her homelessness that of the stray dog which is kicked from even a ditch, and hunted from even a graveyard: but that through it all she had never touched one coin of that cruel and merciless gift.

“You see?” pursued the low, flute‐like moaning mockery of her tormentor’s voice. “You see? You have all the shame: it is your birthright; and you have nothing of the sweetness which may go with shame for a woman who has beauty. Now, look yonder. There lies the world, which when I saw you last was to you only an empty name. Now you know it—know it, at least, enough to be aware of all you have not, all you might have in it, if you took my golden pear. You must be tired, Folle‐Farine,—to stand homeless under the gilded balconies; to be footsore in the summer dust amongst the rolling carriages; to stand outcast and famished before the palace gates; to see the smiles upon a million mouths, and on them all not one smile upon you; to show yourself hourly amongst a mob, that you may buy a little bread to eat, a little straw to rest on! You must be tired, Folle‐Farine!”

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She was silent where she stood in the moonlight, with the clouds seeming to lean and touch her, and far beneath the blaze of the myriad of lights shining through the soft darkness of the summer night.

Tired!—ah, God!—tired, indeed. But not for any cause of which he spake.

“You must be tired. Now, eat of my golden pear; and there, where the world lies yonder at our feet, no name shall be on the mouths of men as your name shall be in a day. Through the crowds you shall be borne by horses fleet as the winds; or you shall lean above them from a gilded gallery, and mock them at your fancy there on high in a cloud of flowers. Great jewels shall beam on you like planets; and the only chains that you shall wear shall be links of gold, like the chains of a priestess of old. Your mere wish shall be as a sorcerer’s wand, to bring you the thing of our idlest desire. You have been despised!—what vengeance sweeter than to see men grovel to win your glance, as the swine at the feet of Circe? You have been scorned and accursed! —what retribution fuller than for women to behold in you the sweetness and magnificence of shame, and through you, envy, and fall, and worship the Evil which begot you? Has humanity been so fair a friend to you that you can hesitate to strike at its heart with such a vengeance—so symmetrical in justice, so cynical in irony? Humanity cast you out to wither at your birth,—a thing rootless, nameless, only meet for the snake and the worm. If you bear poison in your fruit, is that your fault, or the fault of the human hands that cast the chance‐sown weed out on the dunghill to perish? I do not speak of passion. I use no amorous phrase. I am old and ill‐favoured; and I know that, any way, you will for ever hate me. But the rage of the desert‐beast is more beautiful than the meek submission of the animal timid and tame. It is the lioness in you that I care to chain; but your chains shall be of gold, Folle‐Farine; and all women will envy. Name your price, set it high as you will; there is nothing that I will refuse. Nay, even I will find your lover, who loves not you; and I will let you have your fullest vengeance on him. A noble vengeance, for no other would be worthy of your strength. Living or dead, his genius shall be made known to men; and, before another summer comes, all the world page: 461 shall toss aloft in triumph the name that is now nothing as the dust is;—nothing as you are, Folle‐Farine!”

She heard in silence to the end.

On the height of the roof‐tops all was still; the stars seemed to beam close against her sight; below was the infinite space of the darkness, in which lines of light glittered where the haunts of pleasure lay; all creatures near her slept; the wind‐sown plants blew to and fro, rooted in the spaces of the stones.

As the last words died softly on the quiet of the air, in answer, she reached her hand upward, broke off a tuft of the yellow wall‐blossom, and cast it out with one turn of her wrist down into the void of the darkness.

“What do I say?” she said, slowly. “What? Well, this: I could seize you, and cast you down into the dark below there, as easily as I cast that tuft of weed. And why I hold my hand I cannot tell; it would be just.”

And she turned away and walked from him in the gloom, slowly, as though the deed she spake of tempted her.


THE poverties of the city devoured her incessantly, like wolves; the temptations of the city crouched in wait for her incessantly, like tigers. She was always hungry, always heartsick, always alone; and there was always at her ear some tempting voice, telling her that she was beautiful and was a fool.

Yet she never dreamed once of listening, of yielding, of taking any pity on herself.

Was this virtue? She never thought of it as such; it was simply instinct; the instinct of a supreme fidelity, in which all slighter and meaner passions were absorbed and slain.

Once or twice, through some lighted casement in some lamp‐lit wood, where the little gay boats flashed on fairy lakes, she would coldly watch that luxury, that indolence, page: 462 that rest of the senses, with a curl on her lips, where she sat or stood, in the shadow of the trees.

“To wear soft stuffs and rich colours, to have jewels in their breasts, to sleep in satin, to hear fools laugh, to have both hands full of gold, that is what women love,” she thought; and laughed a little in her cold wonder, and went back to her high cage in the tower, and called the pigeons in from the rooftops at sunset, and kissed their purple throats, and broke amongst them her one dry crust, and, supperless herself, sat on the parapet and watched the round white moon rise over the shining roofs of Paris.

She was ignorant, she was friendless, she was savage, she was very wretched; but she had a supreme love in her, and she was strong.

A hundred times the Red Mouse tried to steal through the lips which hunger, his servile and unfailing minister, would surely, the Red Mouse thought, disbar and unclose to him sooner or later.

“You will tire, and I can wait, Folle‐Farine,” the Red Mouse had said to her, by the tongue of the old man Sartorian; and he kept his word very patiently.

He was patient, he was wise; he believed in the power of gold, and had no faith in the strength of a woman. He knew how to wait—unseen, so that this rare bird should not perceive the net spread for it in its wildness and wariness. He did not pursue, nor too quickly incense her.

Only in the dark cheerless mists, when she rose to go amongst the world of the sleeping poor at her threshold, she would step on some gift worthy of a queen’s acceptance, without date or word, gleaming there against the stone of the stairs.

When she climbed to her hole in the roof at the close of a day, all pain, all fatigue, all vain endeavour, all bootless labour to and fro the labyrinth of streets, there would be on her bare bench such fruit and flowers as Dorothea might have sent from Paradise, and curled amidst them some thin leaf that would have bought the weight of the pines and of the grapes in gold.

When in the dusk of the night she went, wearily and footsore, through the byways and over the sharp set flints of the quarters of the outcasts and the beggars, sick with the tumult and the stench and the squalor, parched with dust, worn page: 463 with hunger, blind with the endless search for one face amidst the millions, going home—oh, mockery of the word!—to a bed of straw, to a cage among the roofs, to a handful of rice as a meal, to a night of loneliness and cold and misery; at such a moment now and then through the gloom a voice would steal to her, saying:

“Are you not tired yet, Folle‐Farine?”

But she never paused to hear the voice, nor gave it any answer.

The mill dust; the reed by the river; the nameless, friendless, rootless thing that her fate made her, should have been so weak, and so lightly blown by every chance breeze—so the Red Mouse told her; should have asked no better ending than to be wafted up a little while upon the winds of praise, or woven with a golden braid into a crown of pleasure.

Yet she was so stubborn and would not; yet she dared deride her tempters, and defy her destiny, and be strong.

For Love was with her.

And though the Red Mouse lies often in Love’s breast, and is cradled there a welcome guest, yet when Love, once in a million times, shakes off his sloth, and flings the Red Mouse with it from him, he flings with a hand of force; and the beast crouches and flees, and dares meddle with Love no more.

In one of the first weeks of the wilder weather, weather that had the purple glow of the autumnal storms and the chills of coming winter on it, she arose, as her habit was, ere the night was altogether spent, and lit her little taper, and went out upon the rounds to rouse the sleepers.

She had barely tasted food for many hours. All the means of subsistence that she had were the few coins earned from those as poor almost as herself.

Often these went in dept to her, and begged for a little time to get the piece or two of base metal that they owed her; and she forgave them such debts always, not having the heart to take the last miserable pittance from some trembling withered hand which had worked through fourscore years of toil, and found no payment but its wrinkles on its palm; not having the force to fill her own plate with crusts which could only be purchased by the hunger cries of some starveling infant, or by the barter of some little value‐ page: 464 less cross of ivory or rosary of berries long cherished in some aching breast after all else was lost or spent.

She had barely tasted food that day, worst of all she had not even a few grains to scatter to the hungry pigeons as they had fluttered to her on the house‐top in the stormy twilights as the evening fell.

She had lain awake all the night hearing the strokes of the bells sound the hours, and seeming to say to her as they beat on the silence—

“Dost thou dare to be strong, thou? a grain of dust, a reed of the river, a Nothing?”

When she rose, and drew back the iron staple that fastened her door, and went out on the crazy stairway, she struck her foot against a thing of metal. It glitter in the feeble beams from her lamp.

She took it up; it was a little precious casket, such as of old the Red Mouse lurked in, amongst the pearls, to spring out from their whiteness into the purer snow of Gretchen’s breast.

With it was only one written line.

“When you are tired,—Folle‐Farine?”

She was already tired, tired with the horrible thirsty weariness of the young lioness starved and cramped in a cage in a city.

An old crone sat on a niche on the wall. She thrust her lean bony face, lit with wolf’s eyes through the gloom.

“Are you not tired?” she muttered in the formula taught her. “Are you not tired, Folle‐Farine?”

“If I be, what of that?” she answered, and she thrust the case away to the feet of the woman, still shut, and went on with her little dim taper down round the twist of the stairs.

She knew what she did, what she put away. She had come to know, too, what share the sex of her mother takes in the bringing to the lips of their kind the golden pear that to most needs no pressing.

“If I had only your face, and your chances,” had said to her that day a serving‐girl, young, with sallow cheeks, and a hollow voice, and eyes of fever, who lived in a den lower down on the stair‐way.

“Are you mad that you hunger here when you might hang yourself with diamonds like our Lady of Atocha?” page: 465 cried a dancing‐woman with sullen eyes and a yellow skin from the hither side of the mountains, who begged in the streets all day.

So, many tongues hissed to her in different fashions. It seemed to many of them impious in one like her to dare to be stronger than the gold was that assailed her, to dare to live up there among the clouds; and hunger, and thirst, and keep her silence, and strike dumb all the mouths that tried to woo her down, and shake aside all the hands that strove softly to slide their purchase‐monies into hers.

For they chimed in chorus as the bells did:

“Strength in the dust—in a reed—in a Nothing?”

It was a bitter windy morning; the rain fell heavily; there were no stars out, and the air was sharp and raw. She was too used to all changes of weather to take heed of it, but her thin clothes were soaked through, and her hair was drenched as she crossed the courts and traversed the passages to reach her various employers.

The first she roused was a poor sickly woman sleeping feverishly on an old rope mat; the second an old man wrestling with nightmare as the rain poured on him through a hole in the roof, making him dream that he was drowning.

The third was a woman so old that her quarter accredited her with a century of age; she woke mumbling that it was hard at her years to have to go and pick rags for a crumb of bread.

The fourth was a little child not seven; he was an orphan, and the people who kept him sent him out to get herbs in the outlying villages to sell in the streets, and beat him if he let other children be beforehand with him. He woke sobbing; he had dreamed of his dead mother, and cried out that it was so cold, so cold.

There were scores like them at whose doors she knocked, or whose chambers she entered. The brief kind night was over, and they had to arise and work,—or die.

“Why do they not die?” she wondered; and she thought of the dear gods that she had loved, the gods of oblivion.

Truly there were no gifts like their gifts; and yet men knew their worth so little!—but thrust Hypnos back in scorn, dashing their wine‐cups in his eyes; and mocked Oneiros, calling him the guest of love‐sick fools and of mad page: 466 poets; and against Thanatos strove always in hatred and terror as against their dreaded foe.

It was a strange melancholy dreary labour this into which she had entered.

It was all dark. The little light she bore scarcely shed its rays beyond her feet. It was all still. The winds sounded infinitely sad amongst those vaulted passages and the deep shafts of the stairways. Now and then a woman’s voice in prayer or a man’s in blasphemy echoed dully through the old half‐ruined buildings. Otherwise an intense silence reigned there, where all save herself were sleeping.

She used to think it was a city of the dead, in which she alone was living.

And sometimes she had not the heart to waken them; when there was a smile on some wan, worn face that never knew one in its waking hours; or when some childless mother in her lonely bed in sleeping fancy drew young arms about her throat.

This morning when all her tasks were done, and all the toilers summoned to another day of pain, she retraced her steps slowly, bearing the light aloft, and with its feeble rays shed on the colourless splendour of her face, and on her luminous dilated troubled eyes that were for ever seeking what they never found.

A long vaulted passage stretched between her and the foot of the steps that led to the tower; many doors opened on it, the winds wailed through it, and the ragged clothes of the tenants blew to and fro upon the swaying cords. She traversed it, and slowly mounted her own staircase, which was spiral and narrow, with little loopholes ever and again that looked out upon the walls, and higher on the roofs, and higher yet upon the open sky. By one of these she paused and looked out wearily.

It was dark still; great low rain‐clouds floated by; a little caged bird stirred with a sad note; nightly rains swept by from the westward, sweet with the smell of the distant fields.

Her heart ached for the country.

It was so still there in the dusk she knew, even in this wild autumn night, which there would be so purple with leaf shadow, so brown with embracing branches, so grey with silvery faint mists, so lily white with virgin snows. page: 467 Ah, God! to reach it once again, she thought, if only to die in it.

And yet she stayed on in this, which was to her the deepest hell, stayed on because he—in life or death,—was here.

She started as a hand touched her softly, where she stood looking through the narrow space. The eyes of Sartorian smiled on her through the twilight.

“Do you shrink still?” he said, gently. “Put back your knife; look at me quietly; you will not have the casket?—very well. Your strength is folly; yet it is noble. It becomes you. I do you good for ill. I have had search made for your lover, who loves not you. I have found him.”


She quivered from head to foot; the grey walls reeled round her; she feared, she hoped, she doubted, she believed. Was it hell? Was it heaven? She could not tell. She cared not which, so that only she could look once more upon the face of Arslàn.

“Living,” he answered her, and still he smiled. “Living. Come with me, and see how he has used the liberty you gave. Come.”

She staggered to her feet and rose, and held her knife close in the bosom of her dress, and with passionate eyes of hope and dread searched the face of the old man through the shadows.

“Is it the truth?” she muttered. “If you mock me—if you lie—”

“Your knife will sheathe itself in my body, I know. Nay, I have never lied to you. One cannot wear a velvet glove to tame a lioness. Come with me; fear nothing, Folle‐Farine. Come with me, and see with your own eye‐sight how the world of men has dealt with this your god.”

“I will come.”

Sartorian gazed at her in silence.

“You are a barbarian; and so you are heroic always. I would not lie to you, and here I have no need. Come; it is very near to you. A rood of stone can sever two lives, though the strength of all the world cannot unite them. Come.”

She gripped the knife closer, and, with feet that stumbled page: 468 as the feet of a dumb beast that goes out to its slaughter, followed him, through the dark and narrow ways. She had no fear for herself; she had no dread of treachery or peril; for herself she could be strong—always: and the point of the steel was set hard against her breast. But for him?—had the gods forgotten? had he forgot?

She was sick and cold and white with terror as she went. She dreaded the unknown thing her eyes might look upon. She dreaded the truth that she had sought to learn all through the burning months of summer, all through the horrors of the crowded city. Was it well with him, or ill? Had the gods remembered at last? Had the stubborn necks of men been bent to his feet? Was he free?—free to rise in the heights of lofty desire, and never look downward—in pity—once?

They passed in silence through many passage ways of the great stone hive of human life in which she dwelt. Once only Sartorian paused and looked back and spoke.

“If you find him in a woman’s arms—lost in a sloth of passion—what then? Will you stay still, let him have greatness?”

In the gloom he saw her stagger as though struck upon the head. But she rallied and gazed at him in answer with eyes that would neither change nor shrink.

“What is that to you?” she said, in her shut teeth. “Show me the truth: as for him—he has a right to do as he will. Have I said ever otherwise?”

He led the way onward in silence.

This passion, so heroic even in its barbarism, so faithful even in its wretchedness, so pure even in its abandonment, almost appalled him—and yet on it he had no pity.

By his lips the world spoke: the world which, to a creature nameless, homeless, godless, friendless, offered only one choice—shame or death; and for such privilege of choice bade her be thankful to men and to their deity.

He led her through many vaulted ways, and up the shaft of a stone stairway in a distant side of the vast pile, which, from holding many habitants of kings and monks and scholars, had become the populous home of the most wretched travailers of a great city.

“Wait here,” he said, and drew her backward into a hollow in the wall. It was nearly dark.

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As she stood there in the darkness looking down through the narrow space, there came a shadow to her through the gloom—a human shadow, noiseless and voiceless. It ascended the shaft of the stairs with a silent swift tread and passed by her and went onward; as it passed, the rays of her lamp were shed on it, and her eyes at last saw the face of Arslàn.

It was pale as death; his head was sunk on his breast; his lips muttered without the sounds of words, his fair hair streamed in the wind; he moved without haste, without pause, with the pulseless haste, the bloodless quiet of a phantom.

She had heard men talk of those who being dead yet dwelt on earth and moved amidst the living. She had no thought of him in that moment save as amongst the dead. But he, dead or living, could have no horror for her; he, dead or living, ruled her as the moon the sea, and drew her after him, and formed the one law of her life.

She neither trembled nor prayed, nor wept nor laughed, nor cried aloud in her inconceivable joy. Her heart stood still, as though some hand had caught and gripped it.

She was silent in the breathless silence of an unspeakable awe; and with a step as noiseless as his own she glided in his path through the deep shaft of the stairs, upward and upward through the hushed house, through the innumerable chambers, through the dusky shadows, through the chill of the bitter dawn, through the close hive of the sleeping creatures, up and up, into the very roof itself, where it seemed to meet the low and lurid clouds, and to be lifted from the habitations and the homes of men.

A doorway was open; he passed through it; beyond it was a bare square place through which there came the feeblest rays of dawn, making the yellow oil flame that burned in it look dull and hot and garish. He passed into the chamber and stood still a moment, with his head dropped on his chest and his lips muttering sounds without meaning.

The light fell on his face; she saw that he was living. Crouched on his threshold, she watched him, her heart leaping with a hope so keen, a rapture so intense, that its very strength and purity suffocated her like some mountain air too pure and strong for human lungs to breathe.

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He walked in his sleep; that sleep so strange and so terrible, which drugs the sense and yet stimulates the brain: in which the sleeper moves, acts, remembers, returns to daily habits, and resorts to daily haunts, and yet to all the world around him is deaf and blind and indifferent as the dead.

The restless brain, unstrung by too much travail and to little food, had moved the limbs unconsciously to their old haunts and habits; and in his sleep, though sightless and senseless, he seemed still to know and still to suffer. For he moved again after a moment’s rest, and passed straight to the wooden tressels on which a great canvas was outstretched.

He sank down on a rough bench in front of it, and passed his hand before the picture with the fond caressing gesture with which a painter shows to another some wave of light, some grace of colour, and then sat there, stupidly, steadfastly, with his elbows on his knees and his head on his hands, and his eyes fastened on the creation before him.

It was a rugged, desolate, wind‐blown chamber, set in the topmost height of the old pile, beaten on by all snows, drenched by all rains, rocked by all storms, bare, comfortless, poor to the direst stretch of poverty, close against the clouds and with the brazen bells and teeming roofs of the city close beneath.

She saw his face once more. She had dwelt by him for many weeks, and no sense of his presence had come to her, no instinct had awakened in him towards the love which clung to him with a faithfulness only as great as its humility.

She, praying always to see this man once more, and die—had been severed from him by the breadth of a stone as by an ocean’s width; and he—doomed to fail always, spending his life in one endeavour, and by that one perpetually vanquished—he had had no space left to look up at a nameless creature with lithe golden limbs, about whose head the white‐winged pigeons fluttered at twilight on the house‐top.

His eyes had swept over her more than once; but they had had no sight for her; they were a poet’s eyes that saw for ever in fancy faces more amorous and divine, limbs lovelier and more lily‐like, mouths sweeter and more persuasive in their kiss, than any they ever saw on earth.

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One passion consumed him, and left him not pause, nor breath, nor pity, nor sorrow for any other thing. He rested from his work and knew that it was good; but this could not content him, for this his fellow‐men denied.

There was scarcely any light, but there was enough for her to read his story by—the story of continual failure.

Yet where she hid upon the threshold her heart beat with wildest music of recovered joy: she had found him, and she had found him alone.

No woman leaned upon his breast; no soft tossed hair bathed his arms, no mouth murmured against his own. He was alone. Her only rival was that one great passion with which she had never in her humility dreamed to meet herself.

Dead he might be to all the world of men, dead in his own sight by a worse fate than any death could give: but for her he was living,—to her what mattered failure or scorn, famine or woe, defeat or despair?

She crouched upon his threshold now, and trembled, with the madness of her joy, and courted its torture. She dared not creep and touch his hand, she dared not steal and kneel a moment at his feet.

He had rejected her. He had had no need of her. He had left her with the first hour that freedom came to him. He had seen her beauty, and learned its lines and hues, and used them for his art, and let it go again, a soulless thing that gave him no delight; a thing so slight that he had thought it scarcely worth his while even to break it for an hour’s sport. This was what he had deemed her; that she knew. She accepted the fate at his hands with the submission that was an integral part of the love she bore him. She had never thought of equality between herself and him; he might have beaten her, or kicked her, as a brute his dog, and she would not have resisted nor resented.

To find him, to watch him from a distance, to serve him in any humble ways she might; to give him his soul’s desire, if any barter of her own soul could purchase it,—this was all she asked. She had told him that he could have no sins to her, and it had been no empty phrase.

She crouched on his threshold, not daring to breathe aloud lest he should hear her.

In the dull light of dawn and of the sickly lamp she saw page: 472 the great canvas on the tressels that his eyes, without seeing it, yet stared at;—it was the great picture of the Barabbas, living its completed life in colour: beautiful, fearful, and divine, full of its majesty of godhead and its mockery of man.

She knew then how the season since they had parted had been spent with him; she knew then, without any telling her in words, how he had given up all his nights and days, all his scant store of gold, all leisure and comfort and peace, all hours of summer sunshine and of midnight cold, all laughter of glad places, and all pleasures of passion or of ease, to render perfect this one work by which he had elected to make good his fame or perish.

And she knew that he must have failed; failed always; that spending his life in one endeavour, circumstance had been stronger than he, and had baffled him perpetually. She knew that it was still in vain that he gave his peace and strength and passions, all the golden years of manhood, and all the dreams and delights of the senses; and that, although these were a treasure which once spent came back nevermore to the hands which scattered them, he had failed to purchase with them, though they were his all, this sole thing which he besought from the waywardness of fate.

“I will find a name or a grave,” he had said, when they had parted: she, with the instinct of that supreme love which clung to him with a faithfulness only equalled by its humility, needed no second look upon his face to see that no gods had answered him save the gods of oblivion;—the gods whose pity he rejected and whose divinity he denied.

For to the proud eyes of a man, looking eagle‐wise at the far‐off sun of a great ambition, the coming of Thanatos could seem neither as consolation nor as vengeance, but only as the crowning irony in the mockery and the futility of life.

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THE dawn grew into morning.

A day broke full of winds and of showers, with the dark masses of clouds tossed roughly hither and thither, and the bells of the steeples blown harshly out of time and tune, and the wet metal roofs glistening through a steam of rain.

The sleepers wakened of themselves or dreamed on as they might.

She had no memory of them.

She crouched in the gloom on his threshold, watching him.

He sank awhile into profound stupor, sitting there before his canvas, with his head dropped and his eyelids closed. Then suddenly a shudder ran through him; he awoke with a start, and shook off the lethargy which drugged him. He rose slowly to his feet, and looked at the open shutters, and saw that it was morning.

“Another day—another day!” he muttered, wearily; and he turned from the Barabbas and flung himself face forward on his bed of straw.

Towards the form on his threshold he had never looked.

She sat without and waited.

Waited—for what? She did not know. She did not dare even to steal to him and touch his hand with even such a timid caress as a beaten dog ventures to give the hand of the master who has driven it from him.

For even a beaten dog is a creature less humble and timid than a woman that loves and whose love is rejected.

He took up a palette ready set, and went to a blank space of canvas and began to cover it with shapes and shadows on the unconscious creative instinct of the surcharged brain. Faces and foilage, beasts and scrolls, the heads of gods, the folds of snakes, forms of women rising from flames and clouds, the flowers of Paradise blossoming amidst the corruption and tortures of Antenora. All were cast in confusion, wave on wave, shape on shape, horror page: 474 with loveliness, air with flame, heaven with hell, in all the mad tumult of an artist’s dream.

With a curse he flung his brushes from him, and cast himself face downward on his bed of straw.

The riot of fever was in his blood. Famine, sleepless nights, opiates with which he had lulled the pangs of vain desires, unnatural defiance of all passions and all joys, the pestilence rife in the crowded quarter of the poor,—all these had done their work upon him. He had breathed in the foul air of plague‐stricken places, unconscious of its peril; he had starved his body, reckless of the flight of time; he had consumed his manhood in one ceaseless, ruthless, and absorbing sacrifice; and Nature, whom he had thus outraged, and thought to outrage with impunity as mere bestial feebleness, took her vengeance on him and cast him here, and mocked him, crying:—

“A deathless name?—Oh, madman. A little breath on the mouths of men in all the ages to come?—Oh, fool! Hereafter, you cry? —oh, fool!—heaven and earth may eart hmay pass away, like a scroll that is burnt into ashes, and the future you live for may never come—neither for you nor the world. What you may gain—who shall say? But all you have missed, I know. And no man shall scorn me—and pass unscathed.”

There came an old lame woman by, laboriously bearing a load of firewood. She passed beside the threshold.

“You look yonder,” she said, resting her eyes on the stranger crouching on the threshold. “Are you anything to that man?”

Silence only answered her.

“He has no friends,” muttered the cripple. “No human being has ever come to him; and he has been here many months. He will be mad—very soon. I have seen it before. Those men do not die. Their bodies are too strong. But their brains go,—look you. And their brains go, and yet they live—to fourscore and ten many a time—shut up and manacled like wild beasts.”

Folle‐Farine shivered where she crouched in the shadow of the doorway; she still said nothing.

The crone mumbled on indifferent of answer, and yet pitiful, gazing into the chamber.

“I have watched him often; he is fair to look at—one page: 475 is never too old to care for that. All winter, spring, and summer he has lived so hard:—so cold too and so silent—painting that strange thing yonder. He looks like a king—he lives like a beggar. The picture was his god,—see you. And no doubt he has set his soul on fame—men will. All the world is mad. One day in the spring time it was sent somewhere—that great thing yonder on the tressels,—to be seen by the world, no doubt. And whoever its fate lay with would not see any greatness in it, or else no eyes would look. It came back as it went. No doubt they knew best;—in the world. That was in the spring of the year. He has been like this ever since. Walking most nights;—starving most days;—I think. But he is always silent.”

The speaker raised her pails and went slowly, muttering as she limped down each steep stair:

“There must hang a crown of stars, I suppose—somewhere—since so many of them for ever try to reach one. But all they ever get here below is a crown of straws in a madhouse.”

“The woman says aright,” the voice of Sartorian murmured low against her ear. She had forgotten that he was near from the first moment that her eyes had once more fed themselves upon the face of Arslàn.

“The woman says aright,” he echoed softly. “ This man will perish; his body may not die, but his brain will—surely. And yet for his life you would give yours?”

She looked up with a gleam of incredulous hope; she was yet so ignorant; she thought there might yet be ways by which one life could buy another’s from the mercy of earth, from the pity of heaven.

“Ah!” she murmured with a swift soft trembling eagerness. “If the gods would but remember!—and take me instead. But they forget—they forget always.

He smiled.

“Ay, truly, the gods forget. But if you would give yourself to death for him, why not do a lesser thing?—give your beauty—Folle‐Farine.”

A scarlet flush burnt her from head to foot. For once she mistook his meaning. She thought—how could a beauty that he who perished there had scorned, have rarity or grace in those cold eyes, or force or light enough to lure him from his grave?

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The low melody of the voice in her ear flowed on.

“See you—what he lacks is only the sinew that gold gives. What he has done is great. The world rightly seeing must fear it; and fear is the highest homage the world ever gives. But he is penniless; and he has many foes; and jealousy can with so much ease thrust aside the greatness which it fears into obscurity, when that greatness is marred by the failures and the feebleness of poverty. Genius scorns the power of gold: it is wrong; gold is the war scythe on its chariot, which mows down the millions of its foes and gives free passage to the sun‐coursers, with which it leaves those heavenly fields of light for the gross battle‐fields of earth.”

“You were to give that gold,” she muttered, in her throat.

“Nay, not so. I was to set him free: to find his fame or his grave; as he might. He will soon find one, no doubt. Nay; you would make no bond with me, Folle‐Farine. You scorned my golden pear. Otherwise—how great his genius is! That cruel scorn, that burning colour, that ice‐like coldness! If the world could be brought to see them once aright, the world would know that no powers greater than these have been amongst it for many ages. But who shall force the world to look?—who? It is so deaf, so slow of foot, so blind, unless the film before its eyes be opened by gold.”

He paused and waited.

She watched silent on the threshold there.

The cruel skill of his words cast on her all the weight of this ruin which they watched.

Her love must need be weak, her pledge to the gods must needs be but imperfectly redeemed, since she, who had bade them let her perish in his stead, recoiled from the lingering living death of any shame, if such could save him.

The sweet voice of Sartorian murmured on:

“Nay; it were easy. He has many foes. He daunts the world and scourges it. Men hate him, and thrust him into oblivion. Yet it were easy!—a few praises to the powerful, a few bribes to the base, and yonder thing once lifted up in the full light of the world, would make him great—beyond any man’s dispute—for ever. I could do it, page: 477 almost in a day; and he need never know. But then you are not tired,—Folle‐Farine!”

She writhed from him, as the doe struck to the ground writhes from the hounds at her throat.

“Kill me!” she muttered. “Will not that serve you? Kill me—and save him!”

Sartorian smiled.

“Ah! you are but weak, after all, Folle‐Farine. You would die for that man’s single sake—so you say; and yet it is not him whom you love. It is yourself. If this passion of yours were great and pure, as you say, would you pause? Could you ask yourself twice if what you think your shame would not grow noble and pure beyond all honour, being embraced for his sake? Nay; you are weak, like all your sex. You would die, so you say. To say it is easy; but to live, that were harder. You will not sacrifice yourself—so. And yet it were greater far, Folle‐Farine, to endure for his sake in silence one look of his scorn, than to brave, in visionary phrase, the thrusts of a thousand daggers, the pangs of a thousand deaths. Kill you!—vain words cost but little. But to save him by sacrifice that he shall never acknowledge; to reach a heroism which he shall ever regard as cowardice; to live and see him pass you by in cold contempt, while in your heart you shut your secret, and know that you have given him his soul’s desire, and saved the genius in him from a madman’s cell and from a pauper’s grave—ah! that is beyond you; beyond any woman perhaps. And yet your love seemed great enough almost to reach such a height as this, I thought.”

He looked at her once, then turned away.

He left in her soul the barbed sting of remorse. He had made her think her faith, her love, her strength, her sinless force, were but the cowardly fruit of cruellest self‐love, that dared all things in words,—yet in action failed.

To save him by any martyrdom of her body or her soul, so she had sworn; yet now!— Suddenly she seemed base to herself, and timorous, and false.

When daybreak came fully over the roofs of the city, it found him senseless, sightless, dying in a garret: the only freedom that he had reached was the delirious liberty of the brain, which, in its madness, casts aside all bonds of time and place and memory and reason.

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All the day she watched beside him, there, amidst the brazen clangour of the bells and scream of the rough winds above the roofs.

In the gloom of the place, the burning colour of the great canvas of Jerusalem glowed in s wondrous pomp and power against all the grey, cold poverty of that wretched place. And the wanton laughed with her lover on the housetop; and the thief clutched the rolling gold; and the children lapped the purple steam of wasted wine; and the throngs flocked after the thief, whom they had elected for their god; and ever and again a stray flickering ray of light flashed from the gloom of the desolate chamber, and struck upon it till it glowed like flame;—this mighty parable, whereby the choice of the people was symbolised for all time; the choice eternal, which never changes, but for ever turns from all diviner life to grovel in the dust before the Beast.

The magnificence of thought, the glory of imagination, the radiance of colour which the canvas held, served only to make more naked, more barren, more hideous the absolute desolation which reigned around. Not one grace, not one charm, not one consolation had been left to the life of the man who had sacrificed all things to the inexorable tyranny of his genius. Destitution, in its ghastliest and most bitter meaning, was alone his recompense and portion. Save a few of the tools and pigments of his art, and a little opium in a broken glass, there was nothing there to stand between him and utter famine.

When her eyes had first dwelt upon him lying senseless under the gaze of the gods, he had not been more absolutely destitute than he was now. The hard sharp outlines of his fleshless limbs, the sunken temples, the hollow cheeks, the heavy respiration which spoke each breath a pang,—all these told their story with an eloquence more cruel than lies in any words.

He had dared to scourge the world without gold in his hand wherewith to bribe it to bear his stripes; and the world had been stronger than he, and had taken its vengeance, and had cast him here powerless.

All the day through she watched beside him—watched the dull mute suffering of stupor, which was only broken by fierce unconscious words muttered in the unknown page: 479 tongue of his birth country. She could give him no aid, no food, no succour; she was the slave of the poorest of the poor; she had not upon her even so much as a copper piece to buy a crust of bread, a stoup of wine, a little cluster of autumn fruit to cool his burning lips. She had nothing,—she, who in the world of men had dared to be strong, and to shut her lips, and to keep her hands clean, and her feet straight; she, whose soul had been closed against the Red Mouse.

If she had gone down amongst the dancing throngs, and rioted with them, and feasted with them, and lived vilely, they would have hung her breast with gems, and paved her path with gold. That she knew; and she could have saved him.

Where she kneeled beside his bed she drew his hands against her heart—timidly, lest consciousness should come to him and he should curse her and drive her thence;—and laid her lips on them, and bathed them in the scorching dew of her hot tears, and prayed him to pardon her if it had been weakness in her,—if it had been feebleness and self‐pity thus to shrink from any abasement, any vileness, any martyrdom, if such could have done him service.

She did not know; she felt astray and blind, and full of guilt. It might be—so she thought—that it was thus the gods had tested her; thus they had bade her suffer shame to give him glory; thus they had tried her strength,—and found her wanting.

Herself, she was so utterly nothing in her own sight, and he was so utterly all in all; her life was a thing so undesired and so valueless, and his a thing so great and so measureless in majesty, that it seemed to her she might have erred in thrusting away infamy, since infamy would have brought with it gold to serve him.

Dignity, innocence, strength, pride—what right had she to these, what title had she to claim them—she who had been less than the dust from her birth upward?

To perish for him anyhow—that was all that she had craved in prayer of the gods. And she watched him now all through the bitter day; watched him dying of hunger, of fever, of endless desire, of continual failure,—and was helpless. More helpless even than she had been when first she had claimed back his life from Thanatos.

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Seven days she watched thus by him amidst the metal clangour of the bells, amidst the wailing of the autumn winds between the roofs.

She moistened his lips with a little water: it was all he took. A few times she left him and stole down amidst the people whom she had served, and was met by a curse from most of them; for they thought that she tended some unknown fever which she might bring amidst them, so they drove her back and would hear naught of her. A few, more pitiful than the rest, flung her twice or thrice a little broken bread; she took it eagerly, and fed on it, knowing that she must keep life in her by some food, or leave him utterly alone. For him she had laid down all pride; for him she would have kissed the feet of the basest or sued to the lowest for alms.

And when the people—whose debts to her she had often forgiven, and whom she had once fancied had borne her a little love—drove her from them with harshest reviling, she answered nothing, but dropped her head and turned and crept again up the winding stairs to kneel beside his couch of straw, and wonder, in the bewildered anguish of her aching brain, if indeed evil were good,—since evil alone could save him.

Seven days went by; the chimes of the bells blown on the wild autumn winds in strange bursts of jangled sound; the ceaseless murmur of the city’s crowd surging ever on the silence from the far depths below; sunrise and moonrise following one another with no change in the perishing life that she alone guarded, whilst every day the light that freshly rose upon the world found the picture of the Barabbas, and shone on the god rejected and the thief adored.

Every night during those seven days the flute‐like voice of her tempter made hated music to her ear. It asked always,—

“Are you tired,—Folle‐Farine?”

Her ears were always deaf; her lips were always dumb.

On the eigth night Sartorian paused a little longer by her in the gloom.

“He dies there,” he said, slowly resting his tranquil musing gaze upon the bed of straw. “It is a pity. So little would save him still. A little wine, a little fruit, a page: 481 little skill,—his soul’s desire when his sense returns. So little—and he would live, and he would be great; and the Barabbas would scourge the secret sins of the nations, and the nations, out of very fear and very shame, would lift their voices loud and hail him prophet and seer.”

Her strength was broken as she heard. She turned and flung herself in supplication at his feet.

“So little—so little; and you hold your hand!”

Sartorian smiled.

“Nay; you hold your silence, Folle‐Farine.”

She did not move; her upraised face spoke without words the passion of her prayer.

“Save him!—save him! So little, so you say; and the gods will not hear.”

“The gods are all dead,—Folle‐Farine.”

“Save him! You are as a god! Save him!”

“I am but a mortal,—Folle‐Farine. Can I open the gates of the tomb, or close them?”

“You can save him,—for you have gold.”

He smiled still.

“Ah! you learn at last that there is but one god? You have been slow to believe,—Folle‐Farine.”

She clung to him; she writhed around him; she kissed with her soilless lips the base dust at his feet.

“You hold the keys of the world; you can save the life of his body; you can give him the life of his soul. You are a beast, a devil, a thing foul and unclean, and without mercy, and cruel as a lie; and therefore you are the thing that men follow, and worship, and obey. I know!—I know! You can save him if you will!”

She laughed where she was stretched upon the ground, a laugh that stayed the smile upon his mouth.

He stooped, and the sweetness of his voice was low and soft as the south wind.

“I will save him, if you say that you are tired,—Folle‐Farine.”

Where she was stretched face downward at his feet she shuddered, as though the folds of a snake curled round her, and stifled her, and slew her with a touch.

“I cannot!” she muttered faintly in her throat.

“Then let him die!” he said; and turned away.

Once again he smiled,—and left her.

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The hours passed; she did not move; stretched there, she wrestled with her agony as the fate‐pursued wrestled with their doom on the steps of the temple, while the dread Eumenides drew round them and waited—waiting in cold patience for the slow sure end.

She arose and went to Arslàn’s side as a dying beast in the public roadway under a blow staggers to its feet to breathe its last.

“Let him die!” she muttered, with lips dry as the lips of the dead. “Let him die!”

Once more the choice was left to her. So men said: and the gods were dead.

An old creature, with a vulture’s eyes and bony fingers, and rags that were plague‐stricken with the poisons of filth and of disease, had followed and looked at her in the doorway, and kicked her where she lay.

“He owes me twenty days for the room,” he muttered, while his breath scorched her throat with the fumes of drink. “A debt is a debt. To‐morrow I will take the canvas; it will do to burn. You shiver?—fool! If you chose, you could fill this garret with gold this very night. But you love this man, and so you let him perish while you prate of ‘shame.’ Oh‐ho! that is a woman!”

He went away through the blackness and the stench, muttering, as he struck his staff upon each stair:

“The picture will feed the stove; the law will give me that.”

She heard and shivered, and looked at the bed of straw, and on the great canvas of the Barabbas.

Before another day had come and gone, he would lie in the common ditch of the poor, and the work of his hand would be withered, as a scroll withers in a flame.

If she tried once more? If she sought human pity, human aid? Some deliverance, some mercy,—who could say? —might yet be found, she thought. The gods were dead; but men—were they all more wanton than the snake, more cruel than the scorpion?

For the first time in seven days she left his side to go forth into the living world.

She rose and staggered for the garret, down the stairway, into the lower stories of the wilderness of wood and stone.

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She traced her way blindly to the places she had known. They closed their doors in haste, and fled from her in terror.

They had heard that she had gone to tend some madman plague‐stricken with some nameless fever; and those wretched lives to life clung closely, with a frantic love.

One woman she stayed, and held with timid, eager hands. Of this woman she had taken nothing all the summer long in wage for waking her tired eyes at daybreak.

“Have pity!” she muttered. “You are poor, indeed, I know; but help me. He dies there!”

The woman shook her off and shrank.

“Get you gone,” she cried. “My little child will sicken if you breathe on her!”

The others said the same, some less harshly, some more harshly. Twice or thrice they added:

“You beg of us, and send the jewels back? Go and be wise. Make your harvest of gold whist you can. Reap while you may in the yellow fields with the sharp sure sickle of youth!”

Not one amongst them braved the peril of a touch of pity; not one amongst them asked the story of her woe; and when the little children ran to her their mothers plucked them back, and cried:

“Art mad? She is plague‐stricken.”

She went from them in silence, and left them and passed out into the open air.

In all this labyrinth of roofs, in all these human herds she yet thought, “Surely there must be some who pity?”

For even yet she was so young; and even yet she knew the world so little.

She went out into the streets.

Her brain was on fire, and her heart seemed frozen; her lips moved without sound, and unconsciously shaped the words which night and day pursued her, “A little gold—a little gold!”

So slight a thing, they said, and yet high above reach as Aldebaran, when it glistened through the storm wrack of the rain.

Why could he have not been content, as she had been, with the rush of the winds over the plains, the strife of the flood and the hurricane, the smell of the fruit‐hung ways at night, the cool green shadows of the summer woods, the page: 484 courses of the clouds, the rapture of the keen air blowing from the sea, the flight of a bird over the tossing poppies, the day song of the lark,—all these were life enough for her; were freedom, loveliness, companionship, and solace. Ah, God! she thought, if only these had made the world of his desires likewise. And even in her ghastlier grief her heart sickened for them in vain anguish as she went—these the pure joys of earth and air which were her only heritage.

She went out into the streets.

It was a night of wind and rain.

The lamps flickered through the watery darkness. Beggars and thieves and harlots jostled her in the narrow ways.

“It must be Hell—the hell of the Christians,” she muttered, as she stood alone on the flints of the roads, in the rancid smell, in the hideous riot, in the ghastly mirth, in the choking stench, in the thick steam of the darkness, whose few dull gleams of yellow light served to show the false red on a harlot’s cheek, or the bleeding wound on a crippled horse, or the reeling dance of a drunkard.

It was the hell of the Christians: in it there was no hope for her.

She moved on with slow unconscious movement of her limbs; her hair blew back, her eyes had a pitiless wonder in their vacant stare; her bloodless face had the horror in it that Greek sculptors gave to the face of those whom a relentless destiny pursued and hunted down; ever and again she looked back as she went, as though some nameless, shapeless, unutterable horror were behind her in her steps.

The people called her mad, and laughed and hooted her; when they had any space to think of her at all.

“A little food, a little wine, for pity’s sake,” she murmured; for her own needs she had never asked a crust in charity, but for his,—she would have kissed the mud from the feet of any creature who would have had thus much of mercy.

In answer they only mocked her, some struck her int he palm of her outstretched hand. Some called her by foul names; some seized her with a drunken laugh, and cursed her as she writhed from their lewd hold; some, and these often women, whispered to her of the bagnio and the brothel; some muttered against her as a thief; one, a youth, who gave her the gentlest answer that she had, page: 485 murmured in her ear, “a beggar? with that face? come tarry with me to‐night.”

She went on through the sulphurous yellow gare, and the poisonous steam of these human styes, shuddering from the hands that grasped, the voices that wooed her, the looks that ravished her, the laughs that mocked her.

It was the hell of the Christians; it was a city at midnight; and its very stones seemed to arise and give tongue in her derision and cry, “Oh, fool, you dreamt of a sacrifice which should be honour; of a death, which should be release; of a means whereby through you the world should hear the old songs of the gods? Oh, fool! We are Christians here: and we only gather the reeds of the river to bruise them and break them, songless and dead, in the name of our Lord.”

She stumbled on through the narrow ways.

After a little space they widened, and the lights multiplied, and through the rushing rains she saw the gay casements of the houses of pleasure.

On a gust of wind there came a breath of fragrance from a root of autumn blossom in a balcony. The old sweet woodland smell smote her as with a blow; the people in the street looked after her.

“She is mad,” they said to one another, and went onward.

She came to a broad place, which even in that night of storm was still a blaze of fire, and seemed to her to laugh through all its marble mask, and all its million eyes of golden light. A cruel laugh which mocked and said:

“The seven chords of the lyre; who listens, who cares, who has ears to hear? But the rod of wealth all women kiss, and to its rule all men crawl; for ever. You dreamt to give him immortality?—fool! Give him gold—give him gold! We are Christians here: and we have but one God.”

Under one of the burning cressets of flame there was a slab of stone on which were piled, bedded in leaves, all red and gold, with pomp of autumn, the fruit of the vine in great clear pyramids of white and purple; tossed there so idly in such profusion from the past vintage time, that a copper coin or two could buy a feast for half a score of months. Some of the clusters rotted already from their over ripeness.

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She looked at them with the passionate woful eyes of a dog mad with thirst, which can see water and yet cannot reach it. She leaned towards them, she caught their delicious coldness in her burning hands, she breathed in their old familiar fragrance with quick convulsive breath.

“He dies there!” she muttered, lifting her face to the eyes of the woman guarding her. “He dies there; would you give me a little cluster, ever such a little one, to cool his mouth, for pity’s sake?”

The woman thrust her away, and raised, shrill and sharp through all the clamour of the crowd, the cry of thief.

A score of hands were stretched to seize her, only the fleetness of her feet saved her. She escaped from them, and as a hare flies to her form, so she fled to the place whence she came.

She had done all she could; she had made one effort, for his sake; and all living creatures had repulsed her. None would believe; none would pity; none would hear. Her last strength was broken, her last faint hope had failed.

In her utter wretchedness she ceased to wonder, she ceased to revolt, she accepted the fate which all men told her was her heritage and portion.

“It was I who was mad,” she thought, “so mad, so vain, to dream that I might ever be chosen as the reed was chosen. If I can save him, anyhow, what matter, what matter for me?”

She went back to the place where he lay—dying, unless help came to him. She climbed the stairway, and stole through the foulness and the darkness of the winding ways, and retraced her steps, and stood upon his threshold.

She had been absent but one hour; yet already the last, most abject, most wretched penalty of death had come to him. They robbed him in his senselessness.

The night was wet. The rain dropped through the roof. The rats fought on the floor and climbed the walls. The broken lattice blew to and fro with every gust of wind.

A palsied crone, with ravenous hands; sheared the locks of his fair hair, muttering, “They will fetch a stoup of brandy; and they would take them to‐morrow in the dead‐house.”

The old man who owned the garret crammed into a wallet such few things of metal, or of wood, or of paper, as page: 487 were left in the utter poverty of the place, muttering as he gathered the poor shreds of art, “They will do to burn; they will do to burn. At sunrise I will get help and carry the great canvas down.”

The rats hurried to their holes at the light; the hag let fall her shears, and fled through an opening in the wall.

The old man looked up and smiled with a ghastly leer upon her in the shadows.

“To‐morrow I will have the great canvas,” he said, as he passed out, bearing his wallet with him. “And the students will give me a silver bit, for certain, for that fine corpse of his. It will make good work for their knives and their moulding‐clay. And he will be dead to‐morrow;—dead, dead.”

And he grinned in her eyes as he passed her. A shiver shook her; she said nothing; it seemed to her as though she would never speak again.

She set down her lamp, and crossed the chamber, and kneeled down beside the straw that made his bed.

She was quite calm.

She knew that the world gave her one chance—one only. She knew that men alone reigned, and that the gods were dead.

She flung herself beside him on the straw and wound her arms about him, and laid his head to rest upon her heart; one moment—he would never know.

Between them there would be for ever silence. He would never know.

Greatness would come to him, and the dominion of gold; and the work of his hands would pass amidst the treasures of the nations; and he would live and arise and say, “the desire of my heart is mine,”—and yet he would never know that one creature had so loved him that she had perished more horribly than by death to save him.

If he lived to the uttermost years of man, he would never know how, body and soul, she had passed away to destruction for his sake.

To die for him!

She laughed to think how sweet and calm such sacrifice as that had been.

Amidst the folded lilies, on the white waters, as the moon rose,—she laughed to think how she had sometimes dreamed page: 488 to slay herself in such tender summer peace for him. That was how women perished when men loved, and loved enough to die with them, their lips upon each other’s to the last. But she—

Death in peace; sacrifice in honour; a little memory in a human heart; a little place in a great hereafter; there were things too noble for her—so they said.

A martyrdom in shame; a life in ignominy—these were all to which she might aspire—so they said.

Upon his breast women would sink to sleep; amongst his hair their hands would wander, and on his mouth their sighs would spend themselves. Shut in the folded leaves of the unblossomed years some dreams of passion and some flower of love must lie for him—that she knew.

She loved him with that fierce and envious force which grudged the wind its privilege to breathe upon his lips, the earth its right to bear his footsteps, which was for ever jealous of the mere echo of his voice, avaricious of the mere touch of his hand. And when she gave him to the future, she gave him to other eyes, that would grow blind with passion, meeting his; to other forms, that would burn with sweetest shame beneath his gaze; to other lives, whose memories would pass with his to the great Hereafter, made immortal by his touch: all these she gave, she knew.

Almost it was stronger than her strength. Almost she yielded to the desire which burned in her to let him die,—and die there with him,—and so hold him for ever hers, and not the world’s; his and none other’s in the eternal unison of the grave, so that with hers his beauty should be consumed, and so that with hers his beauty should be shut from human sight, and the same corruption feed together on their hearts.

Almost she yielded; but the greatness of her love was stronger than its vileness, and its humility was more perfect than its cruelty.

It seemed to her,—mad, and bruised, and stunned with her misery,—that for a thing so worthless and loveless and despised as she to suffer the deadliest shame to save a life so great as his was, after all, a fate more noble than she could have hoped.

For her—what could it matter?—a thing baser than the dust,—whether the feet of men trampled her in scorn a page: 489 little more, a little less, before she sank away into the eternal night wherein all things are equal and all things forgotten?


THAT night the moon found the Red Mouse, and said:

“Did I not declare aright? Over every female thing you are victorious—soon or late?”

“But the Red Mouse answered:—

“Nay, not so. For the soul still is closed against me; and the soul still is pure. But this men do not see, and women cannot know;—they are so blind.”


ERE another year had been fully born, the world spoke in homage and in wonder of two things.

The one,—a genius which had suddenly arisen in its midst, and taken vengeance for the long neglect of bitter years, and scourged the world with pitiless scorn until, before this mighty scourge which it had dared once to deride and deny, it crouched trembling; and wondered and did homage; and said in fear, “Truly this man is great, and truth is terrible.”

The other,—the bodily beauty of a woman; a beauty rarely seen in open day, but only in the innermost recesses of a sensualist’s palace; a creature barefooted, with chains of gold about her ankles, and loose white robes which showed each undulation of the perfect limbs, and on her breast the fires of a knot of opal; a creature in whose eyes there was one changeless look, as of some desert beast taken from the freedom of the air and cast to the darkness of some unutterable horror; a creature whose lips were for ever mute, mute as the tortured lips of Læna.

One day the man whom the nations at last had crowned, page: 490 saw the woman whom it was a tyrant’s pleasure to place beside him now and then, in the public ways, as a tribune of Rome placed in his chariot of triumph the vanquished splendour of some imperial thing of Asia made his slave.

Across the clear hot light of noon the eyes of Arslàn fell on hers for the first time since they had looked on her amidst the pale poppies, in the moonrise, in the fields.

They smiled on her with a cold, serene, ironic scorn.

“So soon?” he murmured, and passed onward, whilst the people made way for him in homage.

He had his heart’s desire. He was great. He only smiled to think—all women are alike.

Her body shrank, her head dropped, as though a knife were thrust into her breast.

But her lips kept their silence to the last. They were so strong, they were so mute; they did not even once cry out against him: “For thy sake!”


IN the springtime of the year three gods watched by the river.

The golden flowers of the willows blew in the low winds; the waters came and went; the moon rose full and cold over a silvery stream; the reeds sighed in silence.

Two winters had drifted by, and one hot drowsy summer since their creator had forsaken them, and all the white still shapes upon the walls already had been slain by the cold breath of Time. The green weeds waved in the empty casements; the chance‐sown seeds of thistles and of bell‐flowers were taking leaf between the square stones of the paven places; on the deserted threshold lichens and brambles climbed together; the filmy ooze of a rank vegetation stole over the loveliness of Persephone and devoured one by one the divine offspring of Zeus; about the feet of the bound sun king in Pherœ and over the calm serene mockery of Hermes’ smile the grey nets of the spiders’ webs had been woven to and fro, across and across, with the lacing of page: 491 a million threads, as Fate weaves round the limbs and covers the eyes of mortals as they stumble blindly from their birthplace to their grave. All things, the damp and the dust, the frost and the scorch, the newts and the rats, the fret of the flooded waters, and the stealing sure inroad of the mosses that everywhere grew from the dews and the fogs, had taken and eaten, in hunger or sport, or had touched, and thieved from, then left, gangrened and ruined.

The three gods alone remained; who being the sons of eternal night, are unharmed, unaltered, by any passage of the years of earth. The only gods who never bend beneath the yoke of years; but unblenchingly behold the nations wither as uncounted leaves, and the lands and the seas change their places, and the cities and the empires pass away as a tale that is told; and the deities that are worshipped in the temples alter in name and attributes and cultus, at the wanton will of the age which begot them.

In the still cold moonlit air their shadows stood together. Hand in hand; looking outward through the white night mists. Other gods perished with the faith of each age as it changed; other gods lived by the breath of men’s lips, the tears of prayer, the smoke of sacrifice. But they,—their empire was the universe.

In every young soul that leaps into the light of life rejoicing blindly, Oneiros has dominion; and he alone. In every creature that breathes, from the conqueror resting on a field of blood, to the nest bird cradled in its bed of leaves, Hypnos holds a sovereignty which nothing mortal can long resist and live. And Thanatos,—to him belong every created thing, past, present, and to come; beneath his feet all generations lie; and in the hollow of his hand he holds the worlds; though the earth be tenantless, and the heavens sunless, and the planets shrivel in their courses, and the universe be shrouded in an endless night, yet through the eternal desolation Thanatos still will reign, and through the eternal darkness, through the immeasurable solitudes, he alone will wander, and he still behold his work.

Deathless as themselves their shadows stood; and the worm and the lizard and the newt left them alone and dared not wind about their calm clear brows, and dared not steal to touch the roses at their lips, knowing that ere the birth of the worlds these were and when the worlds shall page: 492 have perished these still will reign on:—the slow, sure, soundless, changeless ministers of an eternal rest, of an eternal oblivion.

A late light strayed in from the grey skies, pale as the primrose flowers that grew amongst the reeds upon the shore; and found its way to them, trembling; and shone in the far‐seeing depths of their unfathomable eyes.

The eyes which spake and said:

“Sleep, dreams, and death:—we are the only gods that answer prayer.”

With the faint gleam of the tender evening, there came across the threshold a human form, barefooted, bareheaded, with broken links of golden chains gleaming here and there upon her limbs, with white robes hanging heavily, soaked with dews and rains; with sweet familiar smells of night‐born blossoms, of wet leaves, of budding palm‐boughs, of dark seed‐sown fields, and the white flower foam of orchards, shedding their fragrance from her as she moved. Her face was bloodless as the faces of the gods; her eyes had a look of blindness; her lips were close locked together; her feet stumbled often, yet her path was straight.

She had hidden by day, she had fled by night; all human creatures had scattered themselves from her in fear. She had made her way, blindly but surely through the cool air; through the shadows and the grasses; through the sighing sounds of bells; through the pastures, where the herds were grazing; through the daffodils blowing in the shallow brooks; through all the things for which her heart had been athirst so long, and which she reached—too late.

Too late for any coolness of fresh grass beneath her limbs to give them rest; too late for any twilight song of missel‐thrush or merle to touch her dumb dead heart to music; too late for any kiss of clustering leaves to heal the shame that blistered on her lips and withered all their youth. And yet she loved them: loved them never yet more utterly than now when she came back to them, faithful as Persephone to the pomegranate flowers of hell.

She crossed the threshold, whilst the reeds that grew in the water by the steps bathed her feet and blew together against her limbs, sorrowing for this life so like their own, which had dreamed of the songs of the gods, and had only heard the hiss of the snakes.

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She fell at the feet of Thanatos.

The bonds of silence were loosened; the lips dumb so long for love’s sake found voice, and cried out:

“How long—how long? Wilt thou never take pity, and stoop and say ‘Enough?’ I have kept faith; I have kept silence to the end. The gods know. My life for his; my soul for his. So I said; so I have given. I would not have it otherwise. See: I am glad, I am proud, I am strong. See, I have never spoken. The gods have let me perish in his stead. Nay; I suffer nothing. What can it matter for me? Nay; I thank thee that thou hast given my vileness to be the means of his glory. He is great, he has his desire; and I—I am less than the dust. What matter? He must not know; he must never know. And one day I might be weak, or mad, and speak. Take me whilst still I am strong. A little while ago, in a space in the crowds, he saw me. ‘So soon!’ he said,—and smiled. And yet I live! Keep faith with me; keep faith at last. Slay me now, quickly, for pity’s sake; lest once I speak!”

Thanatos, in answer, laid his hand upon her lips; and sealed them, and their secret with them, mute for evermore.

She had been faithful to the end.

To such a faith there is no recompense of man, or of the gods, save only death.

On the shores of the river the winds swept through the reeds; and, sighing amidst them, mourned, saying:

“A thing as free as we, and as fair as ye, is dead; a thing whose joys were made, like ours, from song of the birds, from sight of the sun, from sound of the waters, from smell of the fields; from the tossing spray of the white fruit blossoms, from the play of the grasses at sunrise, from all the innocent liberties of earth and air. She has perished as a trampled leaf, as a broken shell, as a rose that falls in the public ways, as a star that is cast down an autumn night. She has died as the dust dies; and none sorrow. What matter? Men are wise, and gods are just, they say.”

The moon shone cold and clear. The breath of the wild thyme and the willow flowers was sweet upon the air. The leaves blew together, murmuring. The shadows of the clouds were dark upon the stream.

She lay dead at the feet of the Sons of Night.

The noisome creatures of the place stole away trembling; page: 494 the nameless things begotten by loneliness and gloom glided to their holes, as though afraid; the blind newts crept into the utter darkness afar off; the cool winds alone hovered near her, and moved her hair, and touched her limbs with all the fragrance of forest and plain, of the young year and the blossoming woods, of the green garden ways and the silvery sea.

The lives of the earth, and the air, and the waters, alone mourned for this life which was gone from amidst them; free, even in base bondage; pure, though every hand had cast defilement on it; incorrupt, amidst corruption;—for love’s sake.

The Red Mouse sat without, and was afraid, and said:

“To the end she hath escaped me.”


IN the springtide of the year three reapers cut to the roots the reeds that grew by the river.

They worked at dawn; the skies were grey, the still and silvery stream flowed inward slowly; the air was filled with the dreamy scent of white fruit blossoms; in the hush of the daybreak the song of a lark thrilled the silence with music; under the sweep of the steel the reeds fell.

Resting from their labours with the rushes slain around them, they—looking idly within—saw her lying there beneath the gaze of the gods of oblivion.

The gleam of the gold on her limbs conquered their fear. They ventured in and looked on her, and timorously touched her and turned her face to the light of the coming day. Then they saw that she was dead.

“It is that evil thing of Yprès,” they muttered one to another; and stood looking at one and another and at her—afraid.

They spoke in whispers; they were sore afraid; it was still twilight.

“It were a righteous act to thrust her in a grave,” they murmured to each other at the last,—and paused.

“Ay, truly,” they agreed, “otherwise she may break the page: 495 bonds of Death and rise again and haunt us always; who can say? But the gold—”

And then they paused again.

“It were a sin,” one murmured, “it were a sin to bury the pure good gold in the darkness. Even if it come from hell—”

“The priests will bless it for us,” answered the other twain.

Against the darkened skies the lark was singing.

The three reapers waited a little, still afraid; then hastily, as men slaughter a thing they fear may rise against them, they stripped the white robes from her, and drew off the anklets of gold from her feet, and the chains of gold that were riven about her breast and limbs.

When they had stripped her body bare, they were stricken with a terror of the dead creature whom they had violated with their theft; and being consumed with dread lest any, as the day grew lighter, should pass by there and see what they had done, they went out in trembling haste, and together dug deep down into the wet sands, where the reeds grew, and dragged her naked body to the air, and thrust it down there, into its nameless grave, and covered it, and left it to the rising of the tide.

Then, with the gold, they hurried to their homes, leaving the reeds which they had reaped to wither in the sunrise.

The waters rose and smoothed the ruffled soil, and rippled in a sheet of silver over the shore, and effaced all traces of their work; so that no man knew this thing which they had done.

In her life as in her death she was nameless, friendless, and alone.

The reeds blew together by the river, now red in the daybreak, now white in the moonrise, and the winds sighed through them wearily, for they were songless, and the gods were dead.

The seasons came and went; the waters rose and sank; in the golden flowers of the willows the young birds made music with their wings; the soft‐footed things of brake and bush stole through the leaves, and drank at the edge of the stream, and fled away over the wet grey sand: the people passed down the slow current of the tides with lily‐sheaves of the flowering spring, with ruddy fruitage of the summer page: 496 meads, with yellow harvest of the autumn fields, passed singing, smiting the reapen rushes as they went.

But none paused there.

For Thanatos alone knew. Thanatos who watched by day and night the slain reeds sigh, fruitless and rootless, in the empty air; Thanatos, who by the cold, sad patience of his gaze, spake, saying:

“I am the only pity of the world. And even I,—to every mortal thing I come, too early, or too late.”

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