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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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CHAPTER III.

AS the religious gathering broke up and split in divers streams to divers ways, the little town returned to its accustomed stillness—a stillness that seemed to have in it the calm of a thousand sleeping years, and the legends and the dreams of half a score of old dead centuries.

On market‐days and saint‐days, days of high feast or of perpetual chaffering, the town was full of colour, movement, noise, and population.

The country people crowded in, filling it with the jingling of mule‐bells; the fisher people came, bringing with them the crisp salt smell of the sea and the blue of the sea on their garments; its own tanners and ivory carvers, and fruiterers, and lacemakers turned out by the hundred in all the quaint variety of costumes which their forefathers had bequeathed to them, and to which they were still wise enough to adhere. But at other times when the fishers were in their hamlets, and the peasantry on their lands and in their orchards, and the townsfolk at their labours in the old renaissance mansions, which they had turned into tanneries, and granaries, and wool‐sheds, and workshops, the page: 75 place was profoundly still; scarcely a child at play in the streets, scarcely a dog asleep in the sun.

When the crowds had gone the priests laid aside their vestments, and donned the black serge of their daily habit, and went to their daily avocations in their humble dwellings.

The crosses and the censers were put back upon their altars, and hung up upon their pillars.

The boy choristers and the little children put their white linen and their scarlet robes back in cupboards and presses, with heads of lavender and sprigs of rosemary to keep the moth and the devil away, and went to their fields, to their homes, to their herds, to their paper kites, to their daisy chains, to the poor rabbits they pent in a hutch, to the poor flies they killed in the sun.

The town became quite still, the market place quite empty; the drowsy silence of a burning, cloudless afternoon was over all the quiet places about the cathedral walls, where of old the bishops and the canons dwelt; grey shady courts; dim open cloisters; houses covered with oaken carvings, and shadowed with the spreading branches of chestnuts and of lime‐trees that were as aged as themselves.

Under the shelter of one of the lindens, after the populace had gone, there was seated on a broad stone bench the girl who had stood by the wayside erect and unbending as the procession had moved before her.

She had flung herself down in dreamy restfulness. She had delivered her burden of vegetables and fruit at a shop near by, whose awning stretched out into the street like a toadstool yellow with the sun. The heat was intense; she had been on foot all day; she sat to rest a moment, and put her burning hands under a little rill of water that spouted into a basin in a niche in the wall. An ancient well, with a stone image of the Madonna sculptured above, and a wreath of vine‐leaves in stone running around, in the lavish ornamentation of an age when men loved loveliness for its own sake, and begrudged neither time nor labour in its service.

She leaned over the fountain, kept so cool by the roofing of the thick green leaves; there was a metal cup attached to the basin by a chain, and she filled it at the running page: 76 thread of water, and stooped her lips to it again and again thirstily.

The day was sultry; the ways were long and white with powdered limestone; her throat was still parched with the dust raised by the many feet of the multitude; and although she had borne in the great basket which now stood empty at her side, cherries, peaches, mulberries, melons, full of juice and lusciousness, this daughter of the devil had not taken even one to freshen her dry mouth.

Folle‐Farine stooped to the water and played with it, and drank it, and steeped her lips and her arms in it; lying there on the stone bench, with her bare feet curled one in another, and her slender round limbs full of the voluptuous repose of a resting panther. The coolness, the murmur, the clearness, the peace, the soft flowing movement of water, possess an ineffable charm for natures that are passion‐tossed, feverish, and full of storm.

There was a dreary peace about the place, too, which had charms likewise for her; in the dusky arch of the long cloisters, in the grey lichen‐grown walls, in the broad pamments of the paven court, in the clusters of strange delicate carving beneath and below; in the sculptured friezes where little nests that the birds had made in the spring still rested, and in the dense brooding thickness of the boughs which brought the sweetness and the shadows of the woods into the heart of the peopled town.

She stayed there, loath to move; loath to return where a jeer, a bruise, a lifted stick, a muttered curse, were all her greeting and her guerdon.

As she lay thus, one of the doors in the old houses in the cloisters opened; the head of an old woman was thrust out, crowned with the high fan‐shaped comb, and the towering white linen cap, that are the female note of that especial town.

The old woman wa the mother of the sacristan, and she, looking out, shrieked shrilly to her son:

“Georges, Georges! come hither. The devil’s daughter is drinking the blest water!”

The sacristan was hoeing amongst his cabbages in the garden behind his house, surrounded with clipt yew, and damp from the deep shade of the cathedral, that overshadowed it.

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He ran out at his mother’s call, hoe in hand, himself an old man, though stout and strong.

The well in the wall was his especial charge and pride; immeasurable sanctity attached to it.

According to tradition, the water had spouted from the stone itself, at the touch of a branch of blossoming pear, held in the hand of St. Jerome, who had returned to earth in the middle of the fourteenth century, and dwelt for a while near the cathedral, working at the honourable trade of a cordwainer, and accomplishing mighty miracles throughout the district. It was said that some of his miraculous power still remained in the fountain, and that even yet, those who drank on St. Jerome’s day, in full faith and with believing hearts, were, oftentimes, cleansed of sin, and purified of bodily diseases.

Wherefore on that day, throngs of peasantry flocked in from all sides, and crowded round it, and drank; to the benefit of the sacristan in charge, if not to that of their souls and bodies.

Summoned by his mother, he flew to the rescue of the sanctified spring.

“Get you gone!” he shouted. “Get you gone, you child of hell! How durst you touch the blessed basin? Do you think that God struck water from the stone for such as you?”

Folle‐Farine lifted her head and looked him in the face with her audacious eyes, and laughed; then tossed her head again, and plunged it into the bright living water, till her lips, and her cheeks, and all the rippling hair about her temples sparkled with its silvery drops.

The sacristan, infuriated at once by the impiety and the defiance, shrieked aloud.

“Insolent animal! Daughter of Satan! I will teach you to taint the gift of a saint with the lips of the devil!”

And he seized her roughly with one hand upon her shoulder, and with the other raised the hoe and brandished the wooden staff of it above her head in threat to strike her; whilst his old mother, still thrusting her lofty head‐gear and her wrinkled face from out of the door, screamed to him to show he was a man, and have no mercy.

As his grasp touched her, and the staff cast its shadow page: 78 across her, Folle‐Farine sprang up, defiance and fury breathing from all her beautiful fierce face.

She seized the staff in her right hand, wrenched it with a swift movement from his hold, and catching his head under her left arm, rained blows on him from his own weapon with a sudden gust of breathless rage which blinded him, and lent to her slender muscular limbs, the strength and force of man. Then, as rapidly as she had seized and struck him, she flung him from her with such violence that he fell prostrate on the pavement of the court; caught up the metal pail which stood by ready filled, dashed the water over him where he lay, and turning from him without a word, walked across the courtyard slowly, and with a haughty grace in all the carriage of her bare limbs, and the folds of her ragged garments; bearing the empty osier‐basket on her head, deaf as the stones around to the screams of the sacristan and his mother.

In these secluded cloisters, and in the high noontide, when all were sleeping or eating in the cool shelter of their darkened houses, the old woman’s voice remained unheard.

The saints heard, no doubt, but they were too lazy to stir from their niches in that sultry noontide; except the baying of a chained dog aroused, there was no answer to the outcry, and Folle‐Farine passed out into the market place unarrested, and not meeting another living creature.

As she turned into one of the squares that led to the open country, she saw in the distance one of the guardians of the peace of the town moving quickly towards the cloisters, with his glittering lace shining in the sun, and his long scabbard clattering upon the stones. She laughed a little as she saw.

“They will not come after me,” she said to herself. “Thy are too afraid of the devil.”

She judged rightly; they did not come.

She crossed the wide scorching square, whose white stones blazed in the glare of the sun.

There was nothing in sight except a stray cat prowling in a corner, and three sparrows quarrelling over a foul‐smelling heap of refuse.

The quaint old houses round seemed all asleep, with the shutters closed like tired eyelids over their little dim, aged, page: 79 orbs of windows. The gilded vanes on their twisted chimneys, and carved parapets, pointed motionless to the warm south. There was not a sound except for the cawing of some rooks, who built their nests high aloft in the fretted pinnacles of the cathedral.

Undisturbed she crossed the square, and took her way down the crooked street that led her homeward to the outlying country. It was an old, twisting, dusky place, with the water flowing through its centre as its only roadway; and in there were the oldest houses of the town, all of timber, black with age, and carved with the wonderful florid fantasies and grotesque conceits of the years when a house was to its master a thing beloved and beautiful, a bulwark, an altar, a heritage, an heirloom to be dwelt in all the days of a long life, and bequeathed in all honour and honesty to a noble offspring.

The street was very silent, the ripple of the water was the chief sound that filled it. Its tenants were very poor, in many of its antique mansions the beggars shared shelter with the rats and the owls. In one of these dwellings, however, there were still some warmth and colour.

The orange and scarlet flowers of a nasturtium curled up its twisted pilasters; the big, fair clusters of hydrangea filled up its narrow casements; a breadth of many‐coloured saxifrage, with leaves of green and rose, and blossoms of purple and white, hung over the balcony rail, which five centuries earlier had been draped with cloth of gold; and a little yellow song bird made music in the empty niche from which the sculptured flower‐de‐luce had been so long torn down.

From the window a woman looked, leaning with folded arms above the rose‐tipped saxifrage, and beneath the green‐leaved vine.

She was a fair woman, white as the lilies, and she had silver pins in her amber hair, and a mouth that laughed sweetly. She called to Folle‐Farine,

“You brown thing; why do you stare at me?”

Folle‐Farine started and withdrew the fixed gaze of her lustrous eyes.

“Because you are beautiful,” she answered curtly.

All beautiful things head a fascination for her. This woman above was very fair to see, and she looked at her page: 80 as she looked at the purple butterflies in the sun; at the stars shining down through the leaves; at the vast, dim, gorgeous figures in the cathedral windows; at the happy children running to their mothers with their hands full of primroses, as she saw them in the woods at spring‐time; at the laughing groups round the wood‐fires in the new year time when she passed a lattice pane that the snow‐drift had not blocked; at all the things that were so often in her sight, and yet with which her life had no part or likeness.

She stood there on the rough flints, in the darkness cast from the jutting beams of the house; and the other happier creature leaned above there in the light, white and rose‐hued, and with the silver bells of the pins shaking in her yellow tresses.

“You are old Flamma’s grand‐daughter,” cried the other from her leafy nest above. “You work for him all day long at the mill?”

“Yes.”

“And your feet are bare, and your clothes are rags, and you go to and fro like a packhorse, and the people hate you? You must be a fool. Your father was the devil, they say; why do you not make him give you good things?”

“He will not hear,” the child muttered wearily; had she not besought him endlessly with breathless prayers?

“Will he not? Wait a year—wait a year.”

“What then?” asked Folle‐Farine, with a quick startled breath.

“In a year you will be a woman, and he always hears women, they say.”

“He hears you?”

The fair woman above laughed:

“Perhaps; in his fashion. But he pays me ill as yet,” and she plucked one of the silver pins from her hair, and stabbed the rosy foam of the saxifrage through and through with it; for she was but a gardener’s wife, and was restless and full of discontent.

“Get you gone,” she added quickly, “or I will thrown a stone at you, you witch; you have the evil eye, they say, and you may strike me blind if you stare so.”

Folle‐Farine went on her way over the sharp stones with a heavy heart. That picture in the casement head had made page: 81 that passage bright to her many a time; and when at last that picture had moved and spoken, it had only mocked her and reviled her as the rest did.

The street was dark for her like all the others now.

The gardener’s wife, leaning there, with the green and gold of the vineleaves brushing her hair, looked after her down the crooked way.

“That young wretch will be more beautiful than I,” she thought; and the thought was bitter to her, as such a one is to a fair woman.

Folle‐Farine went slowly and sadly through the street with her head dropped, and the large osier basket trailing behind her over the stones.

She was well used to be pelted with words hard as hailstones, and usually heeded them little, or gave them back with sullen, fierce defiance. But from this woman they had wounded her; for that bright bower of golden leaves and scarlet flowers she had faintly fancied some stray beam of light might wander even to her.

She was soon outside the gates of the town, and beyond the old walls, where the bramble and the lichen grew over the huge stones of ramparts and fortifications, useless and decayed from age.

The country roads and paths, the silver streams and the wooden bridges, the lanes through which the market mules picked their careful way, the fields in which the white‐capped peasant women and the brindled oxen were at work, stretched all before her in a radiant air, sweet with the scent of ripening fruits from many orchards.

Here and there a wayside crucifix rose dark against the sun; here and there a chapel bell sounded from under some little peaked red roof. The cattle dozed beside meadow ditches that were choked with wild flowers; the dogs lay down beside their sheep and slept.

At the first cottage which she passed, the housewife sat out under a spreading chestnut tree, weaving lace upon her knee.

Folle‐Farine looked wistfully at the woman, who was young and pretty, and who darted her swift skilled hand in and out around the bobbins, keeping time meanwhile with a mirthful burden that she sang.

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The woman looked up and frowned as the girl passed by her.

A little way farther on there was winehouse by the roadside, built of wood, vine‐wreathed, and half hidden in the tall flowering briars of its garden.

Out of the lattice there was leaning a maiden with the silver cross on her bosom shining in the sun, and her meek blue eyes smiling down from under the tower of her white cap. She was reaching a carnation to a student who stood below, with long fair locks and ruddy cheeks, and a beard yellow with the amber down of twenty years; and who kissed her white wrist as he caught the red flower.

Folle‐Farine glanced at the pretty picture with a dull wonder and a nameless pain: what could it mean to be happy like that?

Half a league onward she passed another cottage shadowed by a sycamore‐tree, and with the swallows whirling around its tall twisted stone chimneys, and a beurré pear covering with branch and bloom its old grey walls. An aged woman sat sipping coffee in the sun, and a young one was sweeping the blue and white tiles with a broom, singing gaily as she swept.

“Art thou well placed, my mother?” she asked, pausing to look tenderly at the withered brown face, on which the shadows of the sycamore leaves were playing.

The old mother smiled, steeping her bread in the coffee bowl.

“Surely, child; I can feel the sun and hear you sing.”

She was happy though she was blind.

Folle‐Farine stood a moment and looked at them across a hedge of honeysuckle.

“How odd it must be to have anyone to care to hear your voice like that!” she thought; and she went on her way through the poppies and corn, half softened, half enraged.

Was she lower than they because she could find no one to care for her or take gladness in her life? or was she greater than they because all human delights were to her as the dead letters of an unknown tongue?

Down a pathway fronting her, which ran midway between the yellowing seas of wheat and a belt of lilac clover, and over which a swarm of bees was murmuring, there came a page: 83 country‐woman, crushing the herbage under her heavy shoes, ragged, picturesque, sunbrowned, swinging deep brass pails as she went to the herds on the hillside. She carried a child twisted into the folds of her dress; a boy, half asleep, with his curly head against her breast.

As she passed, the woman drew her kerchief over her bosom, and over the brown rosy face of the child.

“She shall not look at thee, my darling,” she muttered. “Her look withered Rémy’s little limb.” And she covered the child jealously, and turned aside, so that she should tread a separate pathway through the clover, and needed not to brush the garments of the one she was compelled to pass.

Folle‐Farine heard, and laughed aloud.

She knew of what the woman was thinking.

In the summer of the previous year, as she had passed the tanyard on the western bank of the river, the tanner’s little son, rushing out in haste, had curled his mouth in insult at her, and clapping his hands, hissed in a child’s love of cruelty the mocking words which he had heard his elders use of her. In answer, she had only turned her head and looked down at him with calm eyes of scorn.

But the child, running out fast, and startled by that regard, had slipped upon a shred of leather and had fallen heavily, breaking his left leg at the knee.

The limb, unskilfully dealt with, and enfeebled by a tendency to disease, had never been restored, but hung limp, crooked, useless, withered from below the knee. Through all the country side the little cripple, Rémy, creeping out into the sun upon his crutches, was pointed out in a passionate pity as the object of her sorcery, the victim of her vengeance.

When she had heard what they said she had laughed as she laughed now, drawing together her straight brows and showing her glistening teeth.

All the momentary softness died in her now as the peasant covered the boy’s face and turned aside into the clover. She laughed aloud, and swept on through the half‐ripe corn with that swift, harmonious, majestic movement which was inborn in her, as it is inborn in the deer or the antelope; singing again as she went those strange wild airs, like the sigh of the wind, which were all the language page: 84 which lingered in her memory from the land that had seen her birth.

To such aversion as this she was too well used for it to be a matter of even notice to her. She knew that she was marked and shunned by the community amidst which her lot was cast; and she accepted proscription without wonder and without resistance.

Folle‐Farine: the Dust. What lower thing did earth hold?

In this old‐world district, amidst the pastures and cornlands of Normandy, superstition had taken a hold which the passage of centuries and the advent of revolution had done very little to lessen.

Few of the people could read, and fewer still could write. They knew nothing but what their priests and their politicians told them to believe. They went to their beds with the poultry, and rose as the cock crew: they went to mass, as their ducks to the osier and weed ponds; and to the conscription as their lambs to the slaughter.

They understood that there was a world beyond them, but they remembered it only as the best market for their fruit, their fowls, their lace, their skins. Their brains were as dim as were their oil‐lit streets at night; though their lives were content and mirthful, and for the most part pious. They went out into the summer meadows chaunting aves, in seasons of drought to pray for rain on their parching orchards, in the same credulity with which they groped through the winter fog, bearing torches and chaunting dirges to gain a blessing at seed time on their bleak black fallows.

The beauty and the faith of the old Mediæval life were with them still; and its faith were its bigotry and its cruelty likewise.

They led simple and contented lives; for the most part honest, and amongst themselves cheerful and kindly; preserving much grace of colour, of costume, of idiosyncracy, because apart from the hueless communism and characterless monotony of modern cities.

But they believed in sorcery and in devilry; they were brutal to their beasts, and could be as brutal to their foes; they were steeped in legend and tradition from their cradles; and all the darkest superstitions of dead ages page: 85 still found home and treasury in their hearts and at their hearths.

Therefore, believing her a creature of evil, they were inexorable against her; and thought that in being so they did their duty.

They had always been a religious people in this birth country of the Flamma race; the strong poetic reverence of their forefathers, which had symbolised itself in the carving of every lintel, corbel, or buttress in their streets, and in the fashion of every spire on which a weather‐vane could gleam against the sun, was still in their blood; the poetry had departed, but the bigotry remained.

Their ancestors had burned wizards and witches by the score in the open square of the cathedral place, and their grandsires and grandams had in brave, dumb, ignorant peasant fashion held fast to the lily and the cross, and gone by hundreds to the salutation of the axe and the baptism of the sword in the red days of revolution.

They were the same people still; industrious, frugal, peaceful, loyal, wedded to old ways and to old relics, content on little, and serene of heart; yet, withal, where they feared or where they hated, brutal with the brutality begotten of abject ignorance. And they had been so to this outcast whom they all called Folle‐Farine.

When she had first come amidst them, a little desolate foreign child, mute with the dumbness of an unknown tongue, and cast adrift amongst strange people, unfamiliar ways, and chill blank glances, she had shyly tried in a child’s vague instincts of appeal and trust to make friends with the other children that she saw, and to share a little in the mothers’ smiles and the babies’ pastimes that were all around her in the glad green world of summer.

But she had been denied and rejected with hard words and harder blows; at her coming the smiles had changed to frowns, and the pastime into terror.

She was proud, she was shy, she was savage; she felt rather than understood that she was suspected and reviled; she ceased to seek her own kind, and only went for companionship and sympathy to the creatures of the fields an the woods, to the things of the earth and the sky and the water.

“Thou art the devil’s daughter!” half in sport hissed page: 86 the youths in the market‐place against her as the little child went amongst them, carrying a load for her grandsire, heavier than her arms knew how to bear.

“Thou wert plague‐spotted from thy birth,” said the old man himself, as she strained her small limbs to and fro the floors of his storehouses, carrying wood or flour or tiles or rushes, or whatever there chanced to need such convoy.

“Get thee away, we are not to touch thee!” hissed the six‐year old infants at play by the river when she waded in amidst them to reach with her lither arms the far‐off water‐flower which they were too timorous to pluck, and tendered it to the one who had desired it.

“The devil begot thee, and my cow fell ill yesterday after thou hadst laid hands upon her!” muttered the old women, lifting a stick as she went near to their cattle in the meadows to brush off with a broad dockleaf the flies that were teasing the poor, meek, patient beasts.

So, cursed when she did her duty and driven away when she tried to do good, her young soul had hardened itself and grown fierce, mute, callous, isolated.

There were only the four‐footed things, so wise, so silent, so tender of heart, so bruised of body, so innocent, and so agonised, that had compassion for her, and saved her from utter desolation. In the mild sad gaze of the cow, in the lustrous suffering eyes of the horse, in the noble frank faith of the dog, in the soft bounding glee of the lamb, in the unwearied toil of the ass, in the tender industry of the bird, she had sympathy and she had example.

She loved them and they loved her.

She saw that they were sinless, diligent, faithful, devoted, loyal servers of base masters; loving greatly, and for their love goaded, beaten, overtasked, slaughtered.

She took the lesson to heart; and hated men and women with a bitter hatred.

So she had grown up for ten years, caring for no human thing, except in a manner for the old man Marcellin, who was, like her, proscribed.

The priest had striven to turn her soul what they had termed heavenward; but their weapons had been wrath and intimidation. She would have none of them. No efforts that they or her grandsire made had availed; she would be starved, thrashed, cursed, maltreated as they page: 87 would; she could not understand their meaning, or would not submit herself to their religion.

As years went on they found the contest hopeless, so had abandoned her to the devil, who had made her; and the daughter of one whom the whole province had called saint had never passed within church‐doors or known the touch of holy water save when they had cast it on her as an exorcism. And when she met a priest in the open roads or on the byepaths of the fields, she always sang in loud defiance her wildest melodies.

Where had she learnt these?

They had been sung to her by Phratos, and taught by him.

Who had he been?

Her old life was obscure to her memory, and yet glorious even in that dimness.

She did not know who those people had been with whom she had wandered, nor in what land they had dwelt.

But that wondrous free life remained on her remembrance as a thing never to be forgotten or to be known again; a life odorous with bursting fruits and budding flowers; full of strangest and of sweetest music; spent for ever under green leaves and suns that had no setting; for ever beside fathomless waters and winding forests; for ever rhymed to melody and soothed to the measure of deep winds and drifting clouds.

For she had forgotten all except its liberty and its loveliness; and the old gypsy life of the Liébana remained with her only as some stray fragment of an existence passed in another world from which she was now an exile, and revived in her only in the fierce passion of her nature, in her bitter, vague rebellion, in her longing to be free, in her anguish of vain desires for richer hues and bluer skies and wilder winds than those amidst which she toiled.

At times she remembered likewise the songs and the melodies of Phratos; remembered them when the moon rays swept across the white breadth of water lilies, or the breath of the spring stole through the awakening woods; and when she remembered them she wept—wept bitterly, where none could look on her.

She never thought of Phratos as a man; as of one who had lived in a human form, and was now lying dead in an earthly page: 88 grave. Her memory of him was as of some nameless creature half divine, whose footsteps brought laughter and music, with eyes bright as a bird’s, yet sad as a dog’s, and a voice for ever singing; clad in goat’s hair, gigantic and gay: a creature that had spoken tenderly to her, that had bidden her laugh and rejoice, that had carried her when she was weary; that had taught her to sleep under the dewy leaves, and to greet the things of the night as soft sisters, and to fear nothing in the whole living world, in the earth, or the air, or the sky, and to tell the truth though a falsehood were to save the bare feet from flintstones, and naked shoulders from the stick, and an empty body from hunger and thirst. A creature that seemed to her in her memories even as the faun seemed to the fancies of the children of the Piræus; a creature half man and half animal, glad and grotesque, full of mirth and of music, belonging to the forest, to the brook, to the stars, to the leaves, wandering like the wind, and, like the wind, homeless.

This was all her memory; but she cherished it; in the face of the priests she bent her straight black brows and curled her scornful scarlet lips, but for the sake of Phratos she held one religion; though she hated men she told them never a lie, and asked of them never alms.

She went now along the white level roads, the empty basket balanced on her head, her form moving with the free harmonious grace of desert women, and she sang as she went the old sweet songs of the broken viol.

She was friendless and desolate; she was ill‐fed, she was heavily tasked; she toiled without thanks; she was ignorant of even so much knowledge as the peasants about her had; she was without a past or a future, and her present had in it but daily toil and bitter words; hunger, and thirst, and chastisement.

Yet for all that she sang;—sang because the vitality in her made her dauntless of all evil; because the abundant life opening in her made her glad in despite of fate; because the youth, and the strength, and the soul that were in her could not utterly be brutalised, could not wholly cease from feeling the gladness of the sun, the coursing of the breeze, the liberty of nature, the sweet quick sense of living.

Before long she reached the spot where the old man Marcellin was breaking his stones.

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His pile was raised much higher; he sat astride on a log of timber and hammered the flints on and on, on and on, without looking up; the dust, where the tramp of the people had raised it, was still thick on the leaves and the herbage; and the prayers and the chaunts had failed as yet to bring the slightest cloud, the faintest rain mist, across the hot unbroken azure of the skies.

Marcellin was her only friend; the proscribed always adhere to one another; when they are few they can only brood and suffer, harmlessly; when they are many they rise as with one foot and strike as with one hand. Therefore, it is always perilous to make the lists of any proscription over long.

The child, who was also an outcast, went to him and paused; in a curious, lifeless, bitter way they cared for one another; this girl who had grown to believe herself born of hell, and this man who had grown to believe that he had served hell.

With the bastard Folle‐Farine and with the regicide Marcellin the people had no association, and for them no pity; therefore they had found each other by the kinship of proscription; and in a way there was love between them.

“You are glad, since you sing!” said the old man to her as she passed him again on her homeward way, and paused again beside him.

“The birds in cages sing,” she answered him. “But, think you they are glad?”

“Are they not?”

She sat down a moment beside him, on the bank which was soft with moss, and odorous with wild flowers curling up the stems of the poplars and straying over into the corn beyond.

“Are they? Look. Yesterday I passed a cottage, it is on the great south road; far away from her. The house was empty; the people, no doubt, were gone to labour in the fields; there was a wicker cage hanging to the wall, and in the cage there was a blackbird. The sun beat on his head; his square of sod was a dry clod of bare earth; the heat had dried every drop of water in his pan; and yet the bird was singing. Singing how? In torment, beating his breast against the bars till the blood started, crying to the skies to have mercy on him and to let rain fall. His song page: 90 was shrill; it had a scream in it; still he sang. Do you say the merle was glad?”

“What did you do?” asked the old man, still breaking his stones with a monotonous rise and fall of his hammer.

“I took the cage down and opened the door.”

“And he?”

“He shot up in the air first, then dropped down amidst the grasses, where a little brook which the drought had not dried was still running; and he bathed and drank and bathed again, seeming mad with the joy of the water. When I lost him from sight he was swaying among the leaves on a bough over the river; but then he was silent.”

“And what do you mean by that?”

Her eyes clouded; she was mute. She vaguely knew the meaning it bore to herself, but it was beyond her to express it. All things of nature had voices and parables for her, because her fancy was vivid and her mind was dreamy; but that mind was still too dark, and too profoundly ignorant, for her to be able to shape her thoughts into metaphor or deduction.

The bird had spoken to her; by his silence as by his song; but what he had uttered she could not well utter again. Save, indeed, that song was not gladness, and neither was silence pain.

Marcellin, although he had asked her, had asked needlessly; for he also knew.

“And what, think you, the people said when they went back and found the cage empty?” he pursued, still echoing his words and hers by the ringing sound of the falling hammer.

A smile curled her lips.

“That was no though of mine.” she said carelessly. “They had done wickedly to cage him; to set him free I would have pulled down their thatch, or stove in their door, had need been.”

“Good!” said the old man briefly, with a gleam of light over his harsh lean face.

He looked up at her as he worked, the shivered flints flying right and left.

“It was a pity to make you a woman,” he muttered, as his keen gaze swept over her.

“A woman!” She echoed the words dully and half page: 91 wonderingly; she could not understand it in connection with herself.

A woman; that was a woman who sat in the sun under the fig tree, working her lace on a frame; that was a woman who leaned out of her lattice tossing a red carnation to her lover; that was a woman who swept the open porch of their house, singing as she cleared the dust away; that was a woman who strode on her blithe way through the clover, carrying her child at her breast.

She seemed to have no likeness to them, no kindred with them; she, a beast of burden, a creature soulless and homeless; an animal made to fetch and carry, to be cursed and beaten, to know neither love nor hope, neither past nor future, but only a certain dull patience and furious hate, a certain dim pleasure in labour and indifference to pain.

“It was a pity to make you a woman,” said the old man once more. “You might be a man worth something; but a woman!—a thing that has no medium; no haven between hell and heaven; no option save to sit by the hearth to watch the pot boil and suckle the children, or to go out into the streets and the taverns to mock at men and to murder them. Which will you do in the future?”

“What?”

She scarcely knew the meaning of the word. She saw that the female creatures round her were of all shades of age, from the young girls with their peach‐like cheeks to the old crones brown and withered as last year’s nuts; she knew that if she lived on she would be old likewise; but of a future she had no conception, no ideal. She had been left too ignorant to have visions of any other world hereafter than this one which the low‐lying green hills and the arc of the pale blue sky shut in upon her.

She had one desire, indeed—a desire vague yet fierce—the desire for liberty. But it was such desire as the bird which she had freed had known; the desire of instinct, the desire of existence, only; her mind was powerless to conceive a future, because a future is a hope, and of hope she knew nothing.

The old man glanced at her, and saw that she had not comprehended. He smiled with a certain bitter pity.

“I spoke idly,” he said to himself; “slaves cannot have a future. But yet—“

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Yet he saw that the creature who was so ignorant of her own powers, of her own splendours, of her own possibilities, had even now a beauty as great as that of a lustrous eastern‐eyed passion‐flower; and he knew that to a woman who has such beauty as this the world holds out in its hand the tender of at least one future—one election, one kingdom, one destiny.

“Women are loved,” she said suddenly; “will any one love me?”

Marcellin smiled bitterly.

“Many will love you, doubtless—as the wasp loves the peach that he kisses with his sting, and leaves rotten to drop from the stem!”

She was silent again, revolving his meaning; it lay beyond her, both in the peril which it embodied from others, and the beauty in herself which it implied. She could reach no conception of herself, save as what she now was, a body servant of toil, a beast of burden like a young mule.

“But all shun me, as even the wasp shuns the bitter oak apple,” she said, slowly and dreamily; “who should love me, even as the wasp loves the peach?”

Marcellin smiled his grim and shadowy smile. He made answer—

“Wait!”

She sat mute once more, revolving this strange, brief word in her thoughts—strange to her, with a promise as vague, as splendid, and as incomprehensible as the prophecy of empire to a slave.

“The future?” she said, at last. “That means something that one has not, and that is to come—is it so?”

“Something that one never has, and that never comes,” muttered the old man, wearily cracking the flints in two; “something that one possesses in one’s sleep, and that is farther off each time that one awakes; and yet a thing that one sees always—sees even when one lies a‐dying, they say—for men are fools.”

Folle‐Farine listened, musing, with her hands clasped on the handles of her empty basket, and her chin resting upon them, and her eyes watching a maimed butterfly drag its wings of emerald and diamond through the hot, pale, sickly dust.

“I dream!” she said, suddenly, as she stooped and lifted page: 93 the wounded insect gently on to the edge of a leaf. “But I dream wide awake.”

Marcellin smiled.

“Never say so. They will think you mad. That is only what foolish things, called poets, do.”

“What is a poet?”

“A foolish thing—I tell you—mad enough to believe that men will care to strain their eyes, as he strains his, to see the face of a God who never looks and never listens.”

“Ah!”

She was so accustomed to be told, that all she did was unlike to others, and was either wicked or was senseless, that she saw nothing except the simple statement of a fact in the rebuke which he had given her. She sat quiet, gazing down into the thick white dust of the road, bestirred by the many feet of mules and men that had trodden through it since the dawn.

“I dream beautiful things,” she pursued slowly. “In the moonlight most often. I seem to remember, when I dream—so much! so much!”

“Remember—what should you remember? You were but a baby when they brought you hither.”

“So they say. But I might live before, in my father’s kingdom. In the devil’s kingdom? Why not?”

“Why not, indeed! Perhaps we all lived there once; and that is why we all, through all our lives, hanker to get back to it!”

“I ask him so often to take me back, but he does not seem ever to hear.”

“Chut! He will hear in his own good time. The devil never passes by a woman.”

“A woman!” she repeated. The word seemed to have no likeness and no fitness with herself.

A woman—she!—a creature made to be beaten, and worn at, and shunned, and loaded like a mule, and driven like a bullock!

“Look you,” said the old man, resting his hammer for a moment, and wiping the sweat from his brow. “I have lived in this vile place forty years. I remember the woman that they say bore you—Reine Flamma. She was a beautiful woman, and pure as snow, and noble, and innocent. She wearied God incessantly. I have seen her stretched for page: 94 hours at the foot of that cross. She was wretched; and she entreated her God to take away her monotonous misery, and to give her some life new and fair. But God never answered. He left her to herself. It was the devil that heard—and replied.”

“Then, is the devil juster than their God?”

Marcellin leaned his hammer on his knee, and his voice rose clear and strong; as it had rung of yore from the tribune.

“He looks so, at the least. It is his wisdom, and that is why his following is so large. Nay, I say, when God is deaf the devil listens.

“That is his wisdom, see you.

“So often the poor little weak human soul, striving to find the right way, cries feebly for help, and none answer.

“The poor little weak soul is blind and astray in the busy streets of the world.

“It lifts its voice, but its voice is so young and so feeble, like the pipe of a newly‐born bird in the dawn, that it is drowned in the shouts and the manifold sounds of those hard, crowded, cruel streets, where every one is for himself, and no man has ears for his neighbour. It is hungered, it is athirst, it is sorrowful, it is blinded, it is perplexed, it is afraid.

“It cries often, but God and man leave it to itself.

“Then the devil, who hearkens always, and who, though all the trumpets blowing their brazen music in the streets bray in his honour, yet is too wise to lose even the slightest sound of any in distress—since of such are the largest sheaves of his harvest—comes to the little soul, and teaches it with tenderness, and guides it towards the paths of gladness, and fills it s lips with the bread of sweet passions, and its nostrils with the savour of fair vanities, and blows in its ear the empty breath of men’s lungs, till that sickly wind seems divinest music.

“Then is the soul dazzled and captured, and made the devil’s for evermore; half through its innocence, half through its weakness; but chiefly of all because God and man would not hear its cries while yet it was sinless and only astray.”

He ceased, and the strokes of his hammer rang again on the sharp flint stones.

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She had listened with her lips parted breathlessly, and her night‐like eyes dilated. In the years of his youth the old man had possessed that rare power which can tip words with fire, and send them burning and keen into the coldest heart; and the power was still there, when it woke up from the stupor of a life of toil, and the silence of a harsh old age. In the far distant time, when he had been amidst the world of men, he had known how to utter the words that charmed to stillness a raging multitude. He had not altogether lost this eloquence at such rare times as he still cared to break his silence, and to unfold the unforgotten memories of a life long dead.

He would speak thus to her, but to no other.

Folle‐Farine listened, mute and breathless, her eyes uplifted to the sun, where it was sinking westward through a pomp of golden and of purple cloud. He was the only creature who ever spoke to her as though she likewise were human; and she followed his words with dumb unquestioning faith, as a dog its master’s footsteps.

“The soul! What is the soul?” she muttered at length.

He caught in his hand the beautiful diamond‐winged butterfly, which now, freed of the dust and drinking in the sunlight, was poised on a foxglove in the hedge growing near him, and held it against the light.

What is it that moves this creature’s wings, and glances in its eyes, and gives it delight in the summer’s warmth, in the orchid’s honey, and in the lime‐tree’s leaves?”

“I do not know; but I know that I can kill it—with one grind of my heel.”

“So much we know of the soul—no more.”

She freed it from his hand.

“Whoever made it, then, was cruel. If he could give it so much power, why not have given it a little more, so that it could escape you always?”

“You ask what men have asked ten times ten thousand years—since the world began—without an answer. Because the law of all creation is cruelty, I suppose; because the dust of death is always the breath of life. The great man, dead, changes to a million worms, and lives again in the juices of the grass above his grave. It matters little. The worms destroy; the grasses nourish. page: 96 Few great men do more than the first, or as much as the last.”

“But get you homeward,” he continued, breaking off his parable; “it is two hours past noon, and if you be late on the way you pay for it with your body. Begone.”

She nodded her head, and went; he seldom used gentle words to her, and yet she knew, in a way, that he cared for her; moreover, she rejoiced in that bitter, caustic contempt in which he, the oldest man amidst them, held all men.

His words were the only thing that had aroused her dulled brain to its natural faculties; in a manner, from him she had caught something of knowledge—something, too, of intellect; he alone prevented her from sinking to that absolute unquestioning despair which surely ends in idiocy or in self‐murder.

She pursued her way in silence across the fields, and along the straight white road, and across a wooden bridge that spanned the river, to her home.

There was a gentler lustre in her eyes and her mouth had the faint light of a half smile upon it; she did not know what hope meant; it never seemed possible to her that her fate could be other than it was, since so long the messengers and emissaries of her father’s empire had been silent and leaden‐footed to her call.

" Yet, in a manner, she was comforted, for had not two mouths that day bidden her “wait”?

She entered at length the little wood of Yprès Yprés , and heard that rush and music of the deep mill water, which was the sole thing she had learned to love in all the place.

Beyond it were the apple orchards and fruit gardens which rendered Claudis Flamma back full recompense for the toil they cost him—recompense so large, indeed, that many disbelieved in that poverty which he was wont to aver weighed so hardly and so tightly on him. Both were now rich in all their mature abundance, since the stream which rushed through them had saved them from the evil effects of the long drought so severely felt in other districts. The cherry trees were scarlet with their latest fruit; the great pumpkins glowed amongst their leaves in tawny orange heaps; little russet‐breasted bullfinches beat their wings vainly at the fine network that enshrouded the paler gold of the wall apricots; a grey cat was stealing amongst the page: 97 delicate yellows of the pear‐shaped marrows; where a round green wrinkled melon lay a‐ripening in the sun, a gorgeous dragon‐fly was hovering, and a mother‐mavis, in her simple coif of brown and white and grey, was singing with all the gladness of her sunny summer joys.

Beyond a hedge of prickly thorn the narrower flower garden stretched, spanned by low stone walls, made venerable by the silvery beards of lichens; and the whole earth was full of colour from the crimson and the golden gladioli; from the carmine‐hued carnations; from the deep‐blue lupins, and the Gloire de Dijon roses; from the green slender stems, and the pure white cups, of the virginal lilies; and from the gorgeous beetles, with their purple tunics and their shields of bronze, like Grecian hoplites in battle array. While everywhere, above this sweet glad garden world, the butterflies, purple and jewelled, the red‐starts in their ruby coats, the dainty azure‐winged blue‐warblers, the golden‐girdled wasp with his pinions light as mist, and the velvet‐coated bee with his pleasant harvest song, flew ever in the sunlight, murmuring, poising, praising, rejoicing.

The place was beautiful in its own simple, quiet way; lying in a hollow, where the river tumbled down in tow or three short breaks and leaps which broke its habitual smooth and sluggish form, and brought it in a sheet of dark water and with a million foam‐bells against the walls of the mill‐house and under the ponderous wheels.

The wooden house itself also was picturesque, in the old fashion common when men built their dwellings slowly and for love; with all its countless carvings black by age, its jutting beams shapen into grotesque human likeness and tragic masks; its parquetted work run over by the green cups of stoneworks, and its high roof with deep shelving eave bright with diapered tiles of blue and white and rose, and alive all day with curling swallows, with pluming pigeons, with cooing doves.

It was beautiful; and the heart of Reine Flamma’s young daughter doubtless would have clung to it, with all a child’s instinct of love and loyalty to its home, had it not been to her only a prison‐house wherein three bitter gaolers for ever ruled her with a rod of iron—bigotry and penury and cruelty.

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She flung herself down a moment in the garden, on the long grass under a mulberry tree, ere she went in to give her account of the fruit sold and the monies brought by her.

She had been on foot since four o’clock in the dawn of that sultry day; her only meal had been a bowl or cold milk and a hunch of dry bread crushed in her strong small teeth. She always toiled hard at such bodily labour as was set to her; to domestic work, to the work of the distaff and spindle, of the stove and the needle, they had never been able to break her; they had found that she would be beaten black and blue ere she would be bound to it; but against open air exertion she had never rebelled, and she had in her all the strength and the swiftness of the nomadic race of the Liébana, and had nought of their indolence and their dishonesty.

She was very hungry, she was again thirsty; yet she did not break off a fruit from any bough about her; she did not steep her hot lips in any one of the cool juicy apricots which studded the stones of the wall beyond her.

No one had ever taught her honesty, except indeed in that dim dead time when Phratos had closed her small hands in his whenever they had stretched out to some forbidden thing, and had said, “Take the goods the gods give thee, but steal not from men.” And yet honest she was, by reason of the fierce proud savage independence in her, and her dim memories of that sole friend loved and lost.

She wanted many a thing, many a time;—nay, nearly every hour that she lived, she wanted those sheer necessaries which make life endurable; but she had taught herself to do without them rather than owe them by prayer or plunder to that human race which she hated, and to which she always doubted her own kinship.

Buried in the grass, she now abandoned herself to the bodily delights of rest, of shade, of coolness, of sweet odours: the scent of the fruits and flowers was heavy on the air; the fall of the water made a familiar tempestuous music on her ear; and her fancy, poetic still, though deadened by a life of ignorance and toil, was stirred by the tender tones of the numberless birds that sang about her.

“The earth and the air are good,” she thought, as she lay page: 99 there watching the dark leaves sway in the foam and the wind, and the bright‐bosomed birds float from blossom to blossom.

For there was latent in her, all untaught, that old pantheistic instinct of the divine age, when the world was young, to behold a sentient consciousness in every leaf unfolded to the light; to see a soul in every created thing the day shines on; to feel the presence of an eternal life in every breeze that moves, in every grass that grows; in every flame that lifts itself to heaven; in every bell that vibrates on the air; in every moth that soars to reach the stars.

Pantheism is the religion of the poet; and nature had made her a poet, though man as yet had but made of her an outcast, a slave, and a beast of burden.

“The earth and the air are good,” she thought, watching the sun‐rays pierce the purple heart of a passion‐flower, the shadows move across the deep brown water, the radiant butterfly alight upon a lily, the scarlet‐throated birds dart in and out, through the yellow feathery blossoms of the limes.

All birds were her friends.

Phratos had taught her in her infancy many notes of their various songs, and many ways and means of luring them to come and rest upon her shoulder and peck the berries in her hands. She had lived so much in the open fields and amongst the woods that she had made her chief companions of them. She could emulate so deftly all their voices, from the call of the wood dove to the chant of the blackbird, and from the trill of the nightingale to the twitter of the titmouse, that she could summon them all to her at will, and have dozens of them fluttering around her head and swaying their pretty bodies on her wrist.

It was one of her ways that seemed to the peasantry so weird and magical; and they would come home from their fields on a spring day‐break and tell their wives in horror how they had seen the devil’s daughter in the red flush of the sunrise, ankle‐deep in violets, and covered with birds from head to foot, hearing their whispers, and giving them her messages to carry in return.

One meek‐eyed woman had dared once to say that St. Francis had done as much, and it had been accredited to him as a fair action and virtuous knowledge; but she was page: 100 frowned down and chattered down by her louder neighbours, who told her that she might look for some sharp judgment of heaven for daring to couple together the blessed name of the holy saint and the accursed name of this foul spirit.

But all they could say could not break the charmed communion between Folle‐Farine and her feathered companions.

She loved them and they her. In the hard winter she had always saved some of her scanty meal for them, and in the springtime and the summer they always rewarded her with floods of songs and soft caresses from their nestling wings.

There were no rare birds, no birds of moor and mountain, in that cultivated and populous district; but to her all the little home‐bred things of pasture and orchard were full of poetry and of character.

The robins, with that pretty air of boldness with which they veil their real shyness and timidity; the strong and saucy sparrows, powerful by the strength of all mediocrities and majorities; all the dainty families of finches in their gay apparellings; the plain brown bird that filled the night with music; the gorgeous oriole ruffling in gold, the gilded princeling of them all; the little blue warblers, the violets of the air; the kingfishers who had hovered so long over the forget‐me‐nots upon the rivers that they had caught the colours of the flowers on their wings; the bright black‐caps green as the leaves, with their yellow waistcoats and velvet hoods, the innocent freebooters of the woodland liberties: all these were her friends and lovers, various as any human crowds of court or city.

She loved them; they and the fourfooted beasts were the sole things that did not flee from her; and the woeful and mad slaughter of them by the peasants was to her a grief passionate in its despair. She did not reason on what she felt; but to her a bird slain was a trust betrayed, an innocence defiled, a creature of heaven struck to earth.

Suddenly on the silence of the garden there was a little shrill sound of pain; the birds flew high in air, screaming and startled; the leaves of a bough of ivy shook as with a struggle.

She rose and looked; a line of twine was trembling against the foliage; in its noosed end the throat of the page: 101 mavis had been caught; it hung tremblingly and clutching at the air convulsively with its little drawn up feet. It had flown into the trap as it had ended its joyous song and soared up to join its brethren.

There were a score of such traps set in the miller’s garden.

She unloosed the cord from about its tiny neck, set it free, and laid it down upon the ivy: the succour came too late; the little gentle body was already without breath; the feet had ceased to beat the air; the small soft head had drooped feebly on one side; the lifeless eyes had started from their sockets; the throat was without song for evermore.

“The earth would be good but for men,” she thought, as she stood with the little dead bird in her hand.

Its mate, which was poised on a rose bough, flew straight to it, and curled round and round about the small slain body, and piteously bewailed its fate, and mourned, refusing to be comforted, agitating the air with trembling wings, and giving out vain cries of grief.

Vain; for the little joyous life was gone; the life that asked only of God and Man a home in the green leaves; a drop of dew from the cup of a rose; a bough to swing on in the sunlight; a summer day to celebrate in song.

All the winter through, it had borne cold and hunger and pain without lament; it had saved the soil from destroying larvæ, and purified the trees from all foul germs; it had built its little home unaided, and had fed its nestlings without alms; it had given its sweet song lavishly to the winds, to the blossoms, to the empty air, to the deaf ears of men; and now it lay dead in its innocence; trapped and slain because human greed begrudge it a berry worth the thousandth part of a copper coin.

Out from the porch of the mill‐house Claudis Flamma came, with a knife in his hand and a basket, to cut lilies for one of the choristers of the cathedral, since the morrow would be the religious feast of the Visitation of Mary.

He saw the dead thrush in her hand, and chuckled to himself as he went by.

“The tenth bird trapped since sunrise,” he said, thinking how shrewd and how sure in their make were these traps of twine that he set in the grass and the leaves.

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She said nothing; but the darkness of disgust swept over her face, as he came in sight in the distance.

She knelt down and scraped a hole in the earth; and laid moss in it and put the mavis softly on its green and fragrant bier, and covered it with handsful of fallen rose leaves and with a spring or two of thyme.

Around her head the widowed thrush flew ceaselessly, uttering sad cries;—who now should wander with him through the sunlight?—who now should rove with him above the blossoming fields?—who now should sit with him beneath the boughs hearing the sweet rain fall between the leaves?—who now should wake with him whilst yet the world was dark, to feel the dawn break, ere the east were red, and sing a welcome to the unborn day?

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