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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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page: 392

CHAPTER I.

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?”

“No.”

“Eh! You must have a lover?”

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

“No.”

“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.

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