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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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page: 34

CHAPTER IV.

THE little dim mind of the five‐year‐old child was not a blank; it was indeed filled to overflowing with pictures of a country that her tongue could not have told of, even had she spoken the language of the people amidst whom she had been cast.

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A land altogether unlike that in which she had been set down on that bitter night of snow and storm: a land noble and wild, and full of colour, broken into vast heights and narrow valleys, clothed with green beechwoods and with forests of oak and of walnut, filled with the noise of torrents leaping from crag to crag, and of brown mountain streams rushing, broad and angry, through wooded ravines. A land made beautiful by moss‐grown water‐mills, and lofty greenways of grey rock; and still shadowy pools, in which the bright fish leaped, and mules’ bells that rang drowsily through leafy gorges; and limestone crags that pierced the clouds, spire‐like, and fantastic in a thousand shapes; and high blue crests of snow‐topped mountains, whose pinnacles glowed to the divinest flush of rose and amber with the setting of the sun.

This land she remembered vaguely, yet gloriously, as the splendours of a dream of Paradise rest on the brain of some young sleeper wakening in squalor, cold, and pain. But the people of the place she had been brought to could not comprehend her few, shy, sullen words, and her strange imperfect trills of song; and she could not tell them that this land had been no realm enchanted of fairy or of fiend, but only the forest region of the Liébana.

Thither, one rich autumn day, a tribe of Spanish gypsies had made their camp. They were a score in all; they held themselves one of the noblest branches of their wide family; they were people with pure Eastern blood in them, and all the grace and the gravity of the Oriental in their forms and postures.

They stole horses and sheep; they harried cattle; they stopped the mules in the passes, and lightened their load of wine‐skins: they entered the posada, when they deigned to enter one at all, with neither civil question nor show of purse, but with a gleam of the teeth, like a threatening dog, and the flash of the knife, half drawn out of the girdle. They were low thieves and mean liars; wild daredevils and loose livers; loathers of labour and lovers of idle days and plundering nights; yet they were beautiful, with the noble, calm, scornful beauty of the East, and they wore their rags with an air that was in itself an empire.

They could play, too, in heavenly fashion, on their old three‐stringed viols; and when their woman danced on the page: 36 sward by moonlight, under the broken shadows of some Moorish ruin, clanging high their tambourines above their graceful heads, and tossing the shining sequins that bound their heavy hair, the muleteer or the herdsman, seeing them from afar, shook with fear, and thought of the tales told him in his childhood by his grandam of the spirits of the dead Moors that rose to revelry, at midnight, in the haunts of their old lost kingdom.

Amongst them was a man yet more handsome than the rest, taller and lither still; wondrous at leaping and wrestling, and all athletic things; surest of any to win a woman, to tame a horse, to strike down a bull at a blow, to silence an angry group at a wineshop with a single glance of his terrible eyes.

His name was Taric.

He had left them often to wander by himself into many countries, and at times when, by talent or by terrorism, he had netted gold enough to play the fool to his fancy, he had gone to some strange city, where credulity and luxury prevailed, and there had lived like a prince, as his own phrase ran, and gamed and intrigued, and feasted, and roystered right royally whilst his gains lasted.

Those spent, he would always return awhile, and lead the common, roving, thieving life of his friends and brethren, till the fit of ambition or the run of luck were again on him. Then his people would afresh lose sight of him to light on him, velvet‐clad, and wine‐bibbing, in some painter’s den in some foreign town, or welcomed him ragged, famished, and foot‐weary, on their own sunburnt sierras.

And the mystery of his ways endeared him to them; and they made him welcome whenever he returned, and never quarrelled with him for his faithlessness; but if there were anything wilder or wickeder, bolder or keener, on hand than was usual, his tribe would always say—“Let Taric lead.”

One day their camp was made in a gorge under the great shadows of the Picos da Europa, a place that they loved much, and settled in often, finding the chestnut woods and the cliff caverns fair for shelter, the heather abounding in grouse, and the pools full of trout, fair for feeding. That day Taric returned from a year ‐long absence, suddenly standing, dark and mighty, between them and the light, as page: 37 they lay around their soup kettle, awaiting their evening meal.

“There is a woman in labour, a league back; by the great cork‐tree, against the bridge;” he said to them. “Go to her some of you.”

And, with a look to the women which singled out two for the errand, he stretched himself in the warmth of the fire, and helped himself to the soup, and lay quiet, vouchsafing them never a word, but playing meaningly with the knife handle thrust into this shirt; for he saw that some of the men were about to oppose his share of a common meal which he had not earned by a common right.

It was Taric—a name of some terror came to their fierce souls.

Taric, the strongest and fleetest and most well favoured of them all; Taric, who had slain the bull that all the matadors had failed to daunt; Taric, who had torn up the young elm, when they needed a bridge over a flood, as easily as a child plucks up a reed; Taric, who had stopped the fiercest contrabandista in all those parts, and cut the man’s throat with no more ado than a butcher slits a lamb’s.

So they were silent, and let him take his portion of the fire and of the broth, and of the thin red wine.

Meanwhile the two gypsies, Quità and Zarâ, went on their quest, and found things as he had said.

Under the great cork‐tree, where the grass was long and damp, and the wood grew thickly, and an old rude bridge of unhewn blocks of rock spanned, with one arch, the river as it rushed downward from its limestone bed aloft, they found a woman just dead, and a child just born.

Quità looked the woman all over hastily, to see if, by any chance, any gold or jewels might be one her; there were none. There was only an ivory cross on her chest, which Quità drew off and hid. Quità covered her with a few boughs and left her.

Zarâ wrapped the child in a bit of her woolen skirt, and held it warm in her breast, and hastened to the camp with it.

“She is dead, Taric,” said Quità, meaning the woman she had left.

He nodded his handsome head.

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“This is yours, Taric?” said Zarâ, meaning the child she held.

He nodded again, and drank another drop of wine, and stretched himself.

“What shall we do with her?” asked Quità.

“Let her lie there,” he answered her.

What shall we do with it?” asked Zarâ.

He laughed, and drew his knife against own brown throat in a significant gesture.

Zarâ said no word to him, but she went away with the child under some branches, on which was hung a tattered piece of awning, orange striped, that marked her own especial resting place.

Out of the group about the fire, one man, rising, advanced, and looked Taric full in the eyes.

“Has the woman died by foul means?”

Taric, who never let any living soul molest or menace him, answered without offence, and with a savage candour.

“No—that I swear. I used no foul play against her. Go look at her if you like. I loved hr well enough while she lived. But what does that matter? She is dead. So best. Women are as many as the mulberries.

“You loved her, and you will let the wolves eat her body?”

Taric laughed.

“There are few wolves in the Liébana. Go and bury her if you choose, Phratos.”

“I will,” the other answered him; and he took his way to the cork‐tree by the bridge.

The man who spoke was called Phratos.

He was not like his tribe in anything: except in a mutual love for a life that wandered always, and was to no man responsible, and needed no roof‐tree, and wanted no settled habitation, but preferred to dwell wild with the roe and the coney, and to be hungry and unclad, rather than to eat the good things of the earth in submission and in durance.

He had not their physical perfection: an accident at his birth had made his spine misshapen, and his gait halting. His features would have been grotesque in their ugliness, except for the sweet pathos of the eyes and the gay archness of the mouth.

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Amongst a race noted for its singular beauty of face and form Phratos alone was deformed and unlovely; and yet both deformity and unloveliness were in a way poetic and uncommon; and in his rough sheepskin garments, knotted to his waist with a leathern thong, and with his thick tangled hair falling down on his shoulders, they were rather the deformity of the brake‐haunting faun, the unloveliness of the moon‐dancing satyr, than those of a man and a vagrant. With the likeness he had the temper of the old dead gods of the forest and rivers; he loved music, and could make it, in all its innumerable signs and songs, give a voice to all creatures and things of the world, of the waters and the woodlands; and for many things he was sorrowful continually, and for other things he for ever laughed and was glad.

Though he was misshapen, and even, as some said, not altogether straight in his wits, yet his kin honoured him.

For he could draw music from the rude strings of his old viol that surpassed their own melodies as far as the shining of the sun on the summits of the Europa surpassed the trembling of the little lamps under the painted road‐side Calvaries.

He was only a gypsy; he only played as the fancy moved him, by a bright fountain at a noonday halt, under the ruined arches of a Saracenic temple; before the tawny gleam of a vast dim plain at sunrise; in a cool shadowy court, where the vines shut out all light;; beneath a balcony at night, when the moonbeams gleamed on some fair unknown face, thrust for a moment from the darkness through the white magnolia flowers. Yet he played in suchwise as makes women weep, and holds children and dogs still to listen, and moves grown men to shade their eyes with their hands, and think of old dead times, when they played and prayed at their mothers’ knees.

And his music had so spoken to himself that, although true to his tribe and all their traditions, loving the vagrant life in the open air, and being incapable of pursuing any other, he yet neither stole nor slew, neither tricked nor lied, but found his way vaguely to honesty and candour, and, having found them, clove to them, so that none could turn him: living on such scant gains as were thrown to him for his music from balconies and posada windows and wine‐ page: 40 house doors in the hamlets and towns through which he passed, and making a handful of pulse and a slice of melon, a couch of leaves and a draught of water, suffice to him for his few and simple wants.

His people reproached him, indeed, with demeaning their race by taking payment in lieu of making thefts; and they mocked him often, and taunted him, though in a manner they all loved him,—the reckless and bloodstained Taric most, perhaps, of all. But he would never quarrel with them, neither would he give over his strange ways which so incensed them, and with time they saw that Phratos was a gifted fool, who like other mad simple creatures, had best be left to go on his own way unmolested and without contradiction.

If, too, they had driven him from their midst, they would have missed his music sorely; that music which awoke them at break of day soaring up through their roof of chestnut leaves like a lark’s song piercing the skies.

Phratos came now to the dead woman, and drew off the boughs, and looked at her. She was quite dead. She had died where she had first sunk down, unable to reach her promised resting place. It was a damp green nook on the edge of the bright mountain river, at the entrance of that narrow gorge in which the encampment had been made.

The face, which was white and young, lay upward, with the shadows of the flickering foliage on it; and the eyes, which Quità had not closed, were large and blue; her hair, which was long and brown, was loose, and had got wet amongst the grass, and had little buds of flowers and stray golden leaves twisted in it.

Phratos felt sorrow for her as he looked.

He could imagine her history.

Taric, whom many women had loved, had besought many a one thus to share his fierce free life for a little space, and then drift away out of it by chance, or be driven away from it by his fickle passions, or be taken away like this woman by death.

In her bosom, slipped in her clothes, was a letter. It was written in a tongue he did not know. He held it awhile, thinking, then he folded it up and put it in his girdle,—it might be of use, who could tell? There was the child, there, that might live; unless the camp broke up and Zarâ left it under a walnut tree to die, with the last page: 41 butterflies of the fading summer, which was in all likelihood all she would do.

Nevertheless he kept the letter, and when he had looked long enough at the dead creature, he turned to the tools he had brought with him, and set patiently to make her grave.

He could only work slowly, for he was weak of body, and his infirmity made all manual toil painful to him. His task was hard, even though the earth was so soft from recent heavy rains.

The sun set whist he was still engaged on it; and it was quite nightfall before he had fully accomplished it. When the grave was ready he filled it carefully with the golden leaves that had fallen, and the thick many‐coloured mosses that covered the ground like a carpet.

Then he laid the body tenderly down within that forest shroud, and, with the moss like a winding sheet between it and the earth which had to fall on it, he committed the dead woman to her resting place.

It did not seem strange to him, or awful, to leave her there.

He was a gypsy, and to him a grave under a forest tree and by a mountain stream seemed the most natural rest at last that any creature could desire or claim. No rites seemed needful to him. and no sense of any neglect, cruel or unfitting, jarred on him in thus leaving her in her loneliness, with only the cry of the bittern or the bell of the wild roe as a requiem.

Yet a certain sorrow for this unknown and lost life was on him, Bohemian though he was, as he took up his mattock and turned away, and went backward down the gorge, and left her to lie there for ever, through rain and sunshine, through wind and storm, through the calm of the summer and the flush of autumn, and the wildness of the winter, when the swollen stream should sweep above her tomb, and the famished beasts of the hills would lift up their voices around it.

When he reached the camp, he gave the letter to Taric.

Taric, knowing the tongue it was written in, and being able to understand the character, looked at it, and read it through by the light of the flaming wood. When he had done so he tossed it behind, in among the boughs, in scorn.

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“The poor fool’s prayer to the brute that she hated!” he said, with a scoff.

Phratos lifted up the letter and kept it.

In a later time he found some one who could decipher it for him.

It was the letter of Reine Flamma to the miller at Yprès Yprés , telling him the brief story of her fatal passion, and imploring from him mercy to her unborn child should it survive her and be ever taken to him.

Remorse and absence had softened to her the harshness and the meanness of her father’s character; she only remembered that he had loved her, and had deemed her pure and faithful as the saints of God. There was no word in the appeal by which it could have been inferred that Claudis Flamma had been other than a man much wronged and loving much, patient of heart, and without blame in his simple life.

Phratos took the letter and cherished it. He thought it might some day serve her offspring. This old man’s vengeance could not, he thought, be so cruel to the child as might be the curse and the knife of Taric.

“She must have been beautiful?” said Phratos to him, after a while, that night; “and you care no more for her than that.”

Taric stretched his mighty limbs in the warmth of the flame, and made his answer:

“There will be as good grapes on the vines next year as any we gathered this. What does it signify?—she was only a woman.

“She loved me; she thought me a god, a devil, a prince, a chief,—all manner of things;—the people thought so, too. She was sick of her life. She was sick of the priests and the beads, and the mill and the market. She was fair to look at, and the fools called her a saint. When a woman is young and has beauty, it is dull to be worshipped—in that way.

“I met her in the wood one summer night. The sun was setting. I do not know why I cared for her—I did. She was like a tall white lily; these women of ours are only great tawny sunflowers.

“She was pure and straight of life; she believed in heaven and hell; she was innocent as a child unborn; it page: 43 was tempting to kill all that. It is so easy to kill it when a woman loves you. I taught her what passion and freedom and pleasure and torment all meant. She came with me,—after a struggle, a hard one. I kept her loyally while the gold lasted; that I swear. I took her to many cities. I let her have jewels and music, and silk dresses, and fine linen. I was good to her; that I swear.

“But after a bit she pined, and grew dull again, and wept in secret, and at times I caught her praying to the white cross which she wore on her breast. That made me mad. I cursed her and beat her. She never said anything; she seemed only to love me more, and that made me more mad.

“Then I got poor again, and I had to sell her things one by one. Not that she minded that, she would have sold her soul for me. We wandered north and south; and I made money sometimes by the dice, or by breaking a horse, or by fooling a woman, or by snatching a jewel off one of their dolls in their churches; and I wanted to get rid of her, and I could not tell how. I had not the heart to kill her outright.

“But she never said a rough word, you know, and that makes a man mad. Maddalena or Kara or Rachel—any of them,—would have flown and struck a knife at me, and hissed like a snake, and there would have been blows and furious words and bloodshed; and then we should have kissed, and been lovers again, fast and fierce. But a woman who is quiet, and only looks at you with great, sad, soft eyes, when you strike her,—what is one to do?

“We were horribly poor at last; we slept in barns and haylofts; we ate berries and drank the brook water. She grew weak, and could hardly walk. Many I time I have been tempted to let her lie and die in the hedgeway or on the plains, and I did not,—one is so foolish sometimes for sake of a woman. She knew she was a burden and curse to me,—I may have said so, perhaps; I do not remember.

“At last I heard of you in the Liébana, from a tribe we fell in with on the other side of the mountains, and so we travelled her on foot. I thought she would have got to the women before her hour arrived. But she fell down there, and could not stir; and so the end came. It is best as it is. She was wretched, and what could I do with a woman like that, who would never hearken to another lover, nor page: 44 give up her dead God on his cross, nor take so much as a broken crust if it were stolen, nor even show her beauty to a sculptor to be carved in stone—for I tried to make her do that, and she would not. It is best as it is. If she had lived we could have done nothing with her. And yet I see her sometimes as I saw her that night, so white and so calm, in the little green wood, as the sun set—”

His voice ceased, and he took up a horn full of vino clarete; and drained it, and was very still, stretching his limbs to bask in the heat of the fire. The wine had loosened his tongue, and he had spoken from his heart,—truthfully.

Phratos, his only hearer, was silent.

He was thinking of the great blue sightless eyes that he had closed, and of the loose brown hair on which he had flung the wet leaves and the earth‐clogged mosses.

“The child lives?” he said, at length.

Taric, who was sinking to sleep after the long fatigues of a heavy tramp through mountain passes, stirred sullenly with an oath.

“Let it go to hell,” he made answer.

And these were the only words of baptism that were spoken over the nameless daughter of Taric the gypsy and of Reine Flamma.

That night Phratos called out to him in the moonlight the woman Zarâ, who came from under her tent, and stood under the glistening leaves, strong and handsome, with shining eyes and snowy teeth.

“The child lives still?” he asked.

Zarâ nodded her head.

“You will try and keep it alive?” he pursued.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“What is the use? Taric would rather it were dead.”

“What matter what Taric wishes. Living or dead, it will not hinder him. A child more or less with us, what is it? Only a draught of goat’s milk or a handful of meal. So little; it cannot be felt. You have a child of your own, Zarâ: you cared for it?”

“Yes,” she answered, with a sudden softening gleam of her bright savage eyes.

She had a brown, strong, year‐old boy, who kicked his naked limbs on the sward with joy at Phratos’ music.

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“Then have pity on the motherless creature,” said Phratos, wooingly. “I buried that dead woman; and her eyes, though there was no sight in them, still seemed to pray to mine—and to pray for her child. Be merciful, Zarâ. Let the child have the warmth of your arms and the defence of your strength. Be merciful, Zarâ; and your seed shall multiply and increase tenfold, and shall be stately and strong, and shall spread as the branches of the plane‐trees, on which the storm spends its fury in vain, and beneath which all things of the earth can find refuge. For never was a woman’ pity fruitless, nor the fair deeds of her days without recompense.”

Zarâ listened quietly, as the dreamy, poetic, persuasive words stole on her ear like music. Like the rest of her people, she half believed in him as a seer and prophet; her teeth shone out in a soft sudden smile.

“You are always a fool, Phratos,” she said; “but it shall be as you fancy.”

And she went in out of the moonlit leaves and the clear cool, autumn night into the little dark stifling tent, where the new‐born child had been laid away in a corner upon a rough‐and‐ready bed of gathered dusky fir‐needles.

“It is a little cub, not worth the saving; and its dam was not of our people,” she said to herself, as she lifted the wailing and alien creature to her bosom.

“It is for you, my angel, that I do it,” she murmured, looking at the sleeping face of her own son.

Outside the tent the sweet strains of Phratos’ music rose sighing and soft; and mingling, as sounds mingle in a dream, with the murmurs of the forest leaves and the rushing of the mountain river. He gave her the only payment in his power.

Zarâ, hushing the strange child at her breast, listened, and was half‐touched, half‐angered.

“Why should he play for this little stray thing, when he never played once for you, my glory?” she said to her son, as she put the dead woman’s child roughly away, and took him up in its stead, to beat together in play his rosy hands and cover his mouth with kisses.

For even from these, the world’s outcasts, this new life of a few hours’ span was rejected as unworthy and despised.

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Nevertheless, the music played on through the still forest night; and nevertheless, the child grew and throve.

The tribe of Taric abode in the Liébana or in the adjacent country along the banks of the Deva during the space of four years and more, scarcely losing in that time the sight, either from near or far, of the rosy peaks of the Europa.

He did not abide with them; he quarrelled with them violently concerning some division of a capture of wineskins, and went on his own way to distant provinces and cities; to the gambling and the roystering, the woman‐fooling and the bull‐fighting, that his soul lusted after always.

His daughter he left to dwell in the tent of Zarâ, and under the defence of Phratos.

Once or twice, in sojourns of a night or two amongst his own people, as the young creature grew in stature and strength, Taric had glanced at her, and called her to him, and felt the litheness of her limbs and the weight of her hair, and laughed as he thrust he from him, thinking that, in time to come, she—who would know nothing of her mother’s dead God on the cross, and of her mother’s idle weak scruples,—might bring him a fair provision in his years of age, when his hand should have lost its weight against men and his form its goodliness in the sight of women.

Once or twice he had given her a kick of his foot, or blow with his leathern whip, when she crawled in the grass too near his path, or lay asleep in the sun as he chanced to pass by her.

Otherwise he had nought to do with her, absent or present; otherwise he left her to chance and the devil, who were, as he said, according to the Christians, the natural patrons and sponsors of all love children. Chance and the Devil, however, had not wholly their way in the Liébana; for beside them there was Phratos.

Phratos never abandoned her.

Under the wolfskin and pine boughs of Zarâ’s tent there was misery very often.

Zarâ had a fresh son born to her with each succeeding year; and having a besotted love for her own offspring, had little but indifference and blows for the stranger who page: 47 shared their bed and food. Her children, brown and curly, naked and strong, fought one another like panther cubs, and rode in a cluster like red mountain‐ash berries in the sheep‐skin round her waist, and drank by turns out of the pitcher of broth, and slept all together on dry ferns and mosses, rolled in warm balls one in another like young bears.

But the child who had no affinity with them, who was not even wholly of their tribe, but had in her what they deemed the taint of gentile blood, was not allowed to gnaw her bare bone or her ripe fig in peace if they wished for it; was never carried with them in the sheep‐skin nest, but left to totter after in the dust or mud as best she might; was forced to wait for the leavings in the pitcher, or go without if leavings there were none; and was kicked away by the sturdy limbs of these young males when she tried to creep for warmth’s sake in amongst them on their fern bed. But she minded all this little; since in the Liébana there was Phratos.

Phratos was always good to her. The prayer which those piteous dead eyes had made he always answered. He had always pity for the child.

Many a time, but for his remembrance, she would have starved outright or died of cold in those wild winters, when the tribe huddled together in the caverns of the limestone, and the snow‐drifts were driven up by northern winds and blocked them there for many days. Many a time but for his aid she would have dropped on their march and been left to perish as she might on the long sunburnt roads, in the arid mid‐summers, when they gypsies plodded on their dusty way through the sinuous windings of hill‐side paths and along the rough stones of dried‐up watercourses, in gorges and passages known alone to them and the wild deer.

When her throat was parched with the torment of long thirst, it was he who raised her to drink from the rill in the rock, high above, to which the mothers lifted their eager children leaving her to gasp and gaze unpitied. When she was driven away from the noonday meal by the hungry and clamorous youngsters, who would admit no share of their partridge broth and stewed lentils, it was he who bruised the maize between the stones for her eating, and gathered for her the wild fruit of the quince and the mulberry.

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When the sons of Zarâ had kicked and bruised and spurned her from the tent, he would lead her away to some shadowy place where the leaves grew thickly, and play her such glad and bouyant tunes that the laughter seemed to bubble from the listening brooks and ripple amongst the swinging boughs, and make the wild hare skip with joy, and draw the timid lizard from his hole to frolic. And when they way was long, and the stony paths cruel to her little bare feet, he would carry her aloft on his misshapen shoulders, where his old viol always travelled; and would beguile the steep way with a thousand quaint, soft, grotesque conceits of all the flowers and leaves and birds and animals: talking rather to himself than her, yet talking with a tender fancifulness, half humour and half pathos, that soothed her tired sense like a lullaby. Hence it came to pass that the sole creature whom she loved and who had pity for her was the uncouth, crippled, gay, sad, gentle, dauntless creature whom his tribe had always held half‐wittol and half‐seer.

Thus the life in the hills of the Liébana went on till the child of Taric had entered her sixth year.

She had both beauty and grace; she had the old Moresco loveliness in its higher type; she was fleet as the roe, strong as the young izard, wild as the wood‐partridge on the wing; she had grace of limb from the postures and dances with which she taught herself to keep time to the sweet, fantastic music of the viol; she was shy and sullen, and fierce and savage, to all save himself, for the hand of every other was against her; but to him, she was docile as the dove to the hand that feeds it. He had given her a string of bright sequins to hang on her hair, and when the peasants of the mountains and valleys saw her by the edge of some green woodland pool, whirling by moonlight to the sound of his melodies, they took her to be some unearthly spirit, and told wonderful things over their garlic of the elf crowned with stars they had seen dancing on a round lotus leaf in the hush of the night.

In the Liébana she was beaten often, hungry almost always, cursed fiercely, driven away by the mothers, mocked and flouted by the children; and this taught her silence and ferocity. Yet in the Liébana she was happy, for one creature loved her, and she was free—free to lie in the long page: 49 grass, to bathe in the still pools, to watch the wild things of the woods, to wander ankle deep in forest blossoms, to sleep under the rocking of pines, to run against the sweet force of the wind, to climb the trees and swing cradled in leaves, and to look far away at the snow on the mountains, and to dream, and to love, and to be content in dreaming and loving, their mystical glory that awoke with the sun.

One day in the red autumn, Taric came; he had been wholly absent more than two years.

He was superb to the sight still, with matchless splendour of face and form, but his carriage was more reckless and disordered than ever, and in his gem‐like and night‐black eyes, there was a look of cunning and of subtle ferocity new to them.

His life had gone hardly with him, and to the indolence, the passions, the rapacity, the slothful sensuality of the gypsy—who had retained all the vices of his race whilst losing their virtues of simplicity in living, and of endurance under hardship—the gall of a sharp poverty had become unendurable: and to live without dice, and women, and wine, and boastful brawling, seemed to him to be worse than any death.

The day he returned, they were still camped in the Liébana; in one of its narrow gorges, overhung with a thick growth of trees, and coursed through by a headlong hillstream, that spread itself into darkling breadths and leafy pools, in which the fish were astir under great snowy lilies and a tangled web of water plants.

He strode into the midst of them, as they sat round their camp‐fire lit beneath a shelf of rock, as his wont was; and was welcomed and fed and plied with such as they had, with that mixture of sullen respect and incurable attachment which his tribe preserved, through all their quarrels, for this, the finest and the fiercest, the most fickle and the most faithless of them all.

He gorged himself, and drank, and said little.

When the meal was done, the young of the tribe scattered themselves in the red evening light under the great walnuts; some at feud, some at play.

“Which is mine?” he asked, surveying the children. They showed her to him. The sequins were round her head; she swung on a bough of ash; the pool beneath page: 50 mirrored her; she was singing as children sing, without words, yet musically and gladly, catching at the fireflies that danced above her in the leaves.

“Can she dance?” he asked lazily of them.

“In her own fashion,—as a flower in the wind,” Phratos answered him, with a smile; and willing to woo for her the good graces of her father, he slung his viol off his shoulders and tuned it, and beckoned the child.

She came, knowing nothing who Taric was; he was only to her a fierce‐eyed man like the rest, who would beat her, most likely, if she stood between him and the sun, or overturned by mischance his horn of liquor.

Phratos played, and all the gypsy children, as their wont was, danced.

But she danced all alone, and with a grace and a fire that surpassed theirs. She was only a baby still; she had only her quick ear to guide her, and her only teacher was such inborn instinct as makes the birds sing and the young kids gambol.

Yet she danced with a wondrous subtlety and intensity of ardour beyond her years; her small brown limbs glancing like bronze in the fire‐glow, the sequins flashing in her flying hair, and her form flung high in air, like a bird on the wing, or a leaf on the wind; never still, never ceasing to dart, and to leap, and to whirl, and to sway, yet always with a sweet dreamy indolence, even in her fiery unrest.

Taric watched her under his bent brow until the music ceased, and she dropped on the grass spent and panting like a swallow after a long ocean flight.

“She will do,” he muttered.

“What is it you mean with the child?” some women asked.

Taric laughed.

“The little vermin is good for a gold piece or two,” he answered.

Phratos said nothing, but he heard.

After awhile the camp was still; the gypsies slept. Two or three of their men went out to try and harry cattle by the light of the moon if they should be in luck; two others went forth to set snares for the wood partridges and rabbits; the rest slumbered soundly, the dogs curled to a watching sleep of vigilant guard in their midst.

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Taric alone sat by the dying fire. When all was very quiet, and the stars were clear in the midnight skies, the woman Zarâ stole out of her tent to him.

“You signed to me,” she said to him in a low voice. “You want the child killed?”

Taric showed his white teeth like a wolf.

“Not I; what should I gain?”

“What is it you want, then, with her?”

“I mean to take her, that is all.—See here—a month ago, on the other side of the mountains, I met a fantoccini player. It was at a wine‐shop, hard by Luzarches. He had a woman‐child with him who danced to his music, and whom the people praised for her beauty, and who anticked like a dancing dog, and who made a great deal of silver. We got friends, he and I. At the week’s end the brat died: some sickness of the throat, they said. Her master tore his hair and raved; the little wretch was worth handfuls of coin to him. For such another he would give twelve gold pieces. He shall have her. She will dance for him and me; there is plenty to be made in that way. The women are fools over a handsome child; they open their larders and their purses. I shall take her away before sunrise; he says he teaches them in seven days, by starving them and giving them the stick. She will dance while she is a child. Later on—there are the theatres; she will be strong and handsome, and in the great cities, now, a woman’s comeliness is as a mine of gold ore. I shall take her away by sunrise.”

“To sell her?”

The hard fierce heart of Zarâ rebelled against him; she had no tenderness save for her own offspring, and she had maltreated the stray child many a time; yet the proud liberty and the savage chastity of her race were roused against him by his words.

Taric laughed again.

“Surely; why not? I will make a dancing dog of her for the peasants’ pastime; and in time she will make dancing dogs of the nobles and the princes for her own sport. It is a brave life—none better.”

The gypsy woman stood, astonished and irresolute. If he had flung his child in the river, or thrown her off a rock, he would have less offended the instincts and prejudices of her clan.

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“What will Phratos say?” she asked at length.

“Phratos? A rotten fig for Phratos! What can he say—or do? The little beast is mine; I can wring its neck if I choose, and if it refuse to pipe when we play for it, I will.”

The woman sought in vain to dissuade him; he was inflexible. She left him at last, telling herself that it was no business of hers. He had a right to do what he chose with his own. So went down and lay down amongst her brown‐faced boys, and was indifferent, and slept.

Taric likewise slept, upon a pile of moss under the ledge of the rock, lulled by the heat of the fire, which, ere lying down, he had fed with fresh boughs of resinous wood.

When all was quite still, and his deep quiet breathing told that his slumber was not one easily broken, a man softly rose from the ground and threw off a mass of dead leaves that had covered him, and stood erect, a dark, strange, misshapen figure, in the moonlight: it was Phratos.

He had heard, and understood all that Taric meant for the present and the future of the child: and he knew that when Taric vowed to do a thing for his own gain, it were easier to uproot the chain of the Europa than to turn him aside from his purpose.

“It was my doing!” said Phratos to himself bitterly, as he stood there, and his heart was sick and sore in him, as with self‐reproach for a crime.

He thought awhile, standing still in the hush of the midnight; then he went softly, with a footfall that did not waken a dog, and lifted up the skins of Zarâ’s tent as they hung over the fir‐poles. The moonbeams slanting through the foliage strayed in, and showed him the woman, sleeping among her rosy robust children, like a mastiff with her litter of tawny pups; and away from them, on the bare ground closer to the entrance, the slumbering from of the young daughter of Taric.

She woke as he touched her, opening bright bewildered eyes.

“Hush! it is I, Phratos,” he murmured over her, and the stifled cry died on her lips.

He lifted her up in his arms and left the tent with her, and dropped the curtain of sheepskin, and went out into the clear, crisp, autumn night. Her eyes had closed again, page: 53 and her head had sunk on his shoulder heavy with sleep; she had not tried to keep awake one moment after knowing that it was Phratos who had come for her; she loved him, and in his hold feared nothing.

Taric lay on the ledge of the rock, deaf with the torpor of a half‐drunken slumber, dreaming gloomily; his hand playing in his dreams with the knife that was thrust in his waist‐band.

Phratos stepped gently past him, and through the outstretched forms of the dogs and men, and across the died‐out embers of the fire, over which the emptied soup‐kettle still swung, as the night‐breeze blew to and fro its chain. No one heard him.

He went out from their circle and down the path of the gorge in silence, carrying the child. She was folded in a piece of sheepskin, and in her hair there were still sequins. They glittered in the white light as he went; as the wind blew, it touched the chords of the viol on his shoulder, and struck a faint musical sighing sound from them.

“Is it morning?” the child murmured, half asleep.

“No, dear; it is night,” he answered her, and she was content and slept again—the strings of the viol sending a soft whisper in her drowsy ear, each time that the breeze arose and swept across them.

When the morning came, it found him far on his road, leaving behind him the Liébana.

There followed a bright month of autumn weather. The child was happy as she had never been.

They moved on continually through the plains and the fields, the hills and the woods, the hamlets and the cities; but she and the viol were never weary. They rode aloft whist he toiled on. Yet neither was he weary, for the viol murmured in the wind, and the child laughed in the sunshine.

It was late in the year.

The earth and the sky were a blaze of russet and purple, and scarlet and gold. The air was keen and swift, and strong like wine. A summer fragrance blended with a winter frost. The grape harvest had been gathered in, and had been plentiful, and the people were liberal and of good humour.

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Sometimes before a wine‐shop or beneath a balcony, or in a broad market‐square at evening, Phratos played; and the silver and copper coins were dropped fast to him. When he had enough by him to get a crust for himself, and milk and fruit for her, he did not pause to play, but moved on resolutely all the day, resting at night only.

He bought her a little garment of red foxes’ furs; her head and feet were bare. She bathed in clear running waters, and slept in a nest of hay. She saw vast towers, and wondrous spires, and strange piles of wood and stone, and rivers spanned by arches, and great forests half leafless, and plains red in stormy sunset light, and towns that lay hid in soft gold mists of vapour; and saw all these as in a dream, herself borne high in air, wrapped warm in fur, and lulled by the sweet familiar fraternity of the old viol. She asked no questions, she was content, like a mole or a dormouse; she was not beaten or mocked, she was never hungry nor cold; no one cursed her, and she was with Phratos.

It takes time to go on foot across a great country, and Phratos was nearly always on foot.

Now and then he gave a coin or two, or a tune or two, for a lift on some straw‐laden waggon, or some mule‐cart full of pottery or of vegetables, that was crawling on its slow way through the plains of the marshy lands, or the poplar lined leagues of the public highways. But as a rule he plodded on by himself, shunning the people of his own race, and shunned in return by the ordinary populace of the places through which he travelled. For they knew him to be a Spanish gypsy, by his skin and his garb and his language, and by the starry‐eyed Arab‐faced child who ran by his side in her red fur and her flashing sequins.

“There is a curse written against all honest folk on every one of those shaking coins,” the peasants muttered as she passed them.

She did not comprehend their sayings, for she knew none but her gypsy tongue, and that only very imperfectly; but she knew by their glance that they meant that she was something evil; and she gripped tighter Phratos’ hand—half‐terrified, half‐triumphant.

The weather grew colder and the ground harder. The golden and scarlet glories of the south and of the west, page: 55 their red leafage and purple flowers, gorgeous sunsets and leaping waters, gave place to the level pastures, pale skies, leafless woods, and dim grey tints of the northerly lands.

The frosts became sharp, and mists that came from unseen seas enveloped them. There were marvelous old towns; cathedral spires that arose, ethereal as vapour; still dusky cities, aged with many centuries, that seemed to sleep eternally in the watery halo of the fog; green cultivated hills, from whose smooth brows the earth‐touching clouds seemed never to lift themselves; straight sluggish streams, that flowed with leisurely laziness through broad flat meadow lands, white with snow and obscure with vapour. For these they had exchanged the pomp of dying foliage, the glory of crimson fruits, the fierce rush of the mistral, the odours of the noël‐born violets, the fantastic shapes of the aloes and olives rasing their dark spears and their silvery network against the amber fires of a winter dawn in the rich south‐west.

The child was chilled, oppressed, vaguely awe‐struck, and disquieted; but she said nothing; Phratos was there and the viol.

She missed the red forests and the leaping torrents, and the prickly fruits, and the smell of the violets and the vineyards, and the wild shapes of the cactus, and the old myrtles that were hoary and contorted with age. But she did not complain nor ask any questions; she had supreme faith in Phratos.

One night, at the close of a black day in mid‐winter, the sharpest and hardest in cold that hey had ever encountered, they passed through a little town whose roadways were mostly canals, and whose spires and roofs and pinnacles and turrets and towers were all beautiful with the poetry and the majesty of a long perished age.

The day had been bitter; there was snow everywhere; great blocks of ice choked up the water; the belfry chimes rang shrilly through the rarified air; the few folks that were astir were wrapped in wool or sheepskin; through the casements there glowed the ruddy flush of burning logs; and the muffled watchmen passing to and fro in antique custom on their rounds called out, under the closed houses, that it was the eight of the night in a heavy snowstorm.

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Phratos paused in the town at an old hostelry to give the child a hot drink of milk and a roll of rye bread. There he asked the way the wood and the mill of Yprès Yprés .

They told it him sullenly and suspiciously: since for a wild gypsy of Spain the shrewd, thrifty, plain people of the north had no liking.

He thanked them, and went on his way, out of the barriers of the little town along a road by the river towards the country.

“Art thou cold, dear?” he asked her, with more tenderness than common sense in his voice.

The child shivered under her little fur skin, which would not keep out the searching of the hurricane and the driving of the snowflakes; but she drew her breath quickly, and answered him, “No.”

They came to a little wood, leafless and black in the gloomy night; a dead crow swung in their faces on a swaying pear‐tree; the roar of the mill‐stream loudly filled what otherwise would have been an intense silence.

He made his way in by a little wicket, through an orchard and through a garden, and so to the front of the mill‐house. The shutters were not closed; through the driving of the snow he could see within. It looked to him—a houseless wanderer from his youth up—strangely warm and safe and still.

An old man sat on one side of the wide heart; an old woman, who span, on the other; the spinning‐wheel turned, the thread flew, the logs smoked and flamed, the red glow played on the blue and white tiles of the chimney‐place, and dance on the pewter and brass on the shelves; from the rafters there hung smoked meats and dried herbs and strings of onions; there was a crucifix, and below it a little Nativity, in wax and carved wood.

He could not tell that the goodly stores were only gathered there to be sold later at famine prices to a starving peasantry; he could not tell that the wooden god was only worshipped in a blind, bigoted, brutal selfishness, that desired to save its own soul, and to leave all other souls to eternal damnation.

He could not tell; he only saw old age and warmth, and comfort; and what the people who hooted him as a heathen called the religion of Love.

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“They will surely be good to her?” he thought. “Old people, and prosperous, and alone by their fireside.”

It seemed that they must be so.

Any way, there was no other means to save her from Taric.

His hear was sore within him, for he had grown to love the child; and to the vagrant instincts of his race the life of the house and of the hearth seemed like the life of the cage for the bird. Yet Phratos, who was not altogether as his own people were, but had thought much and often in his own wild way, knew that such a life was the best for a woman child,—and, above all, for a woman child who had such a sire as Taric.

To keep her with himself was impossible. He had always dwelt with his tribe, having no life apart from theirs; and even if he had left them, wherever he had wandered, there would Taric have followed, and found him, and claimed the child by his right of blood. There was no other way to secure her from present misery and future shame, save only this; to place her with her mother’s people.

She stood beside him, still and silent, gazing through the snowflakes at the warmth of the mill‐kitchen within.

He stooped over her, and pushed between her fur garment and her skin the letter he had found on the breast of the dead woman in the Liébana.

“Thou wilt go in there the old man yonder, and sleep by that pleasant fire to‐night,” he murmured to her. “And thou wilt be good and gentle, and even as thou art to me always; and to‐morrow at noontide I will come and see how it fares with thee.”

Her small hands tightened upon his.

“I will not go without thee,” she muttered in the broken tongue of the gypsy children.

There were food and milk, fire and shelter, safety from the night and storm there, she saw; but theses were nought to her without Phratos. She struggled against her fate as the young bird struggles against being thrust into the cage,—not knowing what captivity means, and yet afraid of it and rebelling by instinct.

He took her up in his arms, and pressed her close to him, and for the first time kissed her. For Phratos, though page: 58 tender to her, had no woman’s foolishness, but had taught her to be hardy and strong, and to look for neither caresses nor compassion—knowing well that to the love child of Taric in her future years the first could only mean shame, and the last could only mean alms, which would be shame likewise.

“Go, dear,” he said softly to her; and then he struck with his staff on the wooden door, and lifting its latch, unclosed it; and thrust the child forward, ere she could resist, into the darkness of the low entrance place.

Then he turned and went swiftly himself through the orchard and wood into the gloom and the storm of the night.

He knew that to show himself to a northern householder were to do her evil and hurt; for between the wanderer of the Spanish forests and the peasant of the Norman pastures there could be only defiance, mistrust, and disdain.

“I will see how it is with her to‐morrow,” he said to himself as he faced again the wind and the sleet. “If it be well with her—let it be well. If not, she must come forth with me, and we must seek some lair where her wolf‐sire shall not prowl and discover her. But it will be hard to f ind; for the vengeance of Taric is swift of foot and has a far‐stretching hand an eyes that are sleepless.

And his heart was heavy in him as he went. He had done what seemed to him just and due to the child and her mother; he had been true to the vow he had made answering the mute prayer of the sightless dead eyes; he had saved the flesh of the child from the whip of the trainer, and the future of the child from the shame of the brothel; he had done thus much in saving her from her father, and he had done it in the only way the was possible to him.

Yet his heart was heavy as he went; and it seemed to him even as though he had thrust some mountain bird with pinions that would cleave the clouds, and eyes that would seek the sun, and a song that would rise with the dawn, and a courage that would breast the thunder, down into the darkness of a trap, to be shorn and crippled and silenced for evermore.

“I will see her to‐morrow,” he told himself; restless with a vague remorse, as though the good he had done had been evil.

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But when the morrow dawned there had happened that to Phratos which forbade him to see whether it were well with her that day or any day in all the many years that came.

For Phratos that night, being blinded and shrouded in the storm of snow, lost such slender knowledge as he had of that northern country, and wandered far afield, not knowing where he was in the wide white desert, on which no single star‐ray shone.

The violence of the storm grew with the hours. The land was a sheet of snow. The plains were dim and trackless as a desert. Sheep were frozen in their folds, and cattle drowned amidst the ice in the darkness. All lights were out, and the warning peals of the bells were drowned in the tempest of the winds.

The land was strange to him, and he lost all knowledge where he was. Above, beneath, around, were the dense rolling clouds of snow. Now and then through the tumult of the hurricane there was blown a strange harsh burst of jangled chimes that wailed a moment loudly on the silence and then died again.

At many doors he knocked: the doors of little lonely places standing in the great colourless waste.

But each door, being opened cautiously, was with haste shut in his face again.

“It is a gypsy,” the people muttered, and were afraid; and they drew their bars closer and huddled together in their beds, and thanked their saints that they were safe beneath a roof.

He wrapped his sheepskin closer round him and set his face against the blast.

A hundred times he strove to set his steps backwards to the town, and a hundred times he failed; and moved round and round vainly, never escaping the maze of the endless white fields.

Now the night was long, and he was weakly.

In the midst of the fields there was a cross, and at the head of the cross hung a lantern. The wind tossed the light to and fro. It flickered on the head of a woman. She lay in the snow, and her hand grasped his foot as he passed her.

“I am dead,” she said to him: “dead of hunger. But the lad lives—save him.”

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And as she spoke, her lips closed together and her throat rattled, and she died.

The boy slept at her feet, and babbled in his sleep, delirious.

Phratos stooped down and raised him. He was a child of eight years, and worn with famine and fever, and his gaunt eyes stared hideously up at the driving snow.

Phratos folded him in his arms, and went on with him: the snow had nearly covered the body of his mother.

All around him were the fields. There was no light, except from the lantern on the cross. A few sheep huddled near without a shepherd. The stillness was intense. The bells had ceased to ring, or he had wandered far from the sound of them.

The lad was senseless; he muttered drearily foolish words of fever; his limbs hung in a dead weight; his teeth chattered. Phratos, bearing him, struggled on: the snow was deep and drifted heavily; every now and then he stumbled and plunged to his knees in a rift of earth or in a shallow pool of ice.

At last his strength, feeble at all times, failed him; his arms could bear their burden no longer; he let the young boy slip from his hold upon the ground; and stood, breathless and broken, with the snowflakes beating on him.

“The woman trusted me,” he thought; she was a stranger, she was a beggar, she was dead. She had no bond upon him, neither could she ever bear witness against him. Yet he was loyal to her.

He unwound the sheepskin that he wore, and stripped himself of it, and folded it about the sick child, and with a slow laborious effort drew the little body under the frail shelter of a knot of furze, and wrapped it closely round, and left it there.

It was all that he could do.

Then, with no defence between him and the driving cold, he strove once more to find his road.

It was quite dark; quite still.

The snow fell ceaselessly; the white wide land was pathless as the sea.

He stumbled on as a mule may that being blind and bruised yet holds its way from the sheer instinct of its sad dumb patience.

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His veins were frozen; his beard was ice; the wind cut his flesh like a scourge; a sickly dreamy sleepiness stole on him.

He knew well what it meant.

He tried to rouse himself; he was young, and his life had its sweetness; and there were faces he would fain have seen again, and voices whose laughter he would fain have heard.

He drew the viol round and touched its strings; but his frozen fingers had lost their cunning, and the soul of the music was chilled and dumb: it only sighed in answer.

He kissed it softly as he would have kissed a woman’s lips, and put it in his bosom. It had all his youth in it.

Then he stumbled onward yet again, feebly, being a cripple and cold to the bone, and pierced with a million thorns of pain.

There was no light anywhere.

The endless wilderness of the ploughed lands stretched all around him; where the little hamlets clustered the storm hid them; no light could penetrate the denseness of that changeless gloom; and the only sound that rose upon the ghastly silence was the moaning of some perishing flock locked in a flood of ice, and deserted by its shepherd.

But what he saw and what he heard were not these; going barefoot and blindfold to his death, the things of his own land were with him; the golden glories of sunsets of paradise; the scarlet blaze of a wilderness of flowers; the sound of the fountains at midnight; the glancing of the swift feet in the dances; the sweetness of songs sad as death sung in the desolate courts of the old palaces; the deep dreamy hush of white moons shining through lines of palms straight on a silvery sea. These arose and drifted before him, and he ceased to suffer or to know, and sleep conquered him; and he dropped down on the earth noiselessly and powerlessly as a leaf sins; and the snow fell and covered him.

When the morning broke a peasant, going to his labour in the fields while the stormy winter sun rose red over the whitened world, found both his body and the child’s.

The boy was warm and living, still beneath the shelter of the sheepskin: Phratos was dead.

The people succoured the child, and nursed and fed him so page: 62 that his life was saved; but to Phratos they only gave such burial as the corby gives the stricken deer.

“It is only a gypsy; let him lie,” they said; and they left him there, and the snow kept him.

His viol they robbed him of, and cast it as a plaything to their children. But the children could make no melody from its dumb strings.

For the viol was faithful; and its music was dead too.

And his own land and his own people knew him never again; and never again at evening was the voice of his viol heard in the stillness; and never again did the young men and the maidens dance to his bidding, and the tears and the laughter rise and fall at his will, and the beasts and the birds frisk and sing at his coming, and the children in his footsteps cry:—“Lo, it is summer, since Phratos is here!”

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