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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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BOOK I.

DUST.

CHAPTER I.

NOT the wheat itself; not even so much as the chaff; only the dust from the corn. The dust which no one needs or notices; the mock farina which flies out from under the two revolving circles of the grindstones; the impalpable cloud which goes forth to gleam golden in the sun a moment, and then is scattered; on the wind; into the water; up in the sunlight; down in the mud: what matters? who cares?

Only the dust: a mote in the air; a speck in the light; a black spot in the living daytime; a colourless atom in the immensity of the atmosphere, borne up one instant to gleam against the sky, dropped down the next to lie in a fetid ditch.

Only the dust: the dust that flows out from between the grindstones, grinding exceeding hard and small, as the religion which calls itself Love avers that its God does grind the world.

“It is a nothing, less than nothing. The stones turn; the dust is born; it has a puff of life; it dies. Who cares? No one. Not the good God; not any man; not even the devil. It is a thing even devil‐deserted. Ah, it is very like you,” said the old miller, watching the mill‐stones.

Folle‐Farine heard—she had heard a hundred times,—and held her peace.

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Folle‐Farine: the dust; only the dust.

As good a name as any other for a nameless creature. The dust; sharp‐winnowed and rejected of all, as less worthy than even the shred husks and the shattered stalks.

Folle‐Farine,—she watched the dust fly in and out all day long from between the grindstones. She only wondered why, if she and the dust were thus kindred and namesakes, the wind flew away with the dust so mercifully, and yet never would fly away with her.

The dust was carried away by the breeze, and wandered wherever it listed. The dust had a sweet short summer‐day life of its own ere it died. If it were worthless, it at least was free. It could lie in the curl of a green leaf, or on the white breast of a flower. It could mingle with the golden dust in a lily, and almost seem to be one with it. It could fly with the thistledown, and with the feathers of the dandelion, on every roving wind that blew.

In a vague, dreamy fashion, the child wondered why the dust was so much better dealt with than she was.

“Folle‐Farine! Folle—Folle—Folle—Farine!” the other children hooted after her, echoing the name by which the grim humour of her bitter‐tongued taskmaster had called her. She had got used to it, and answered to it as others to their birth‐names.

It meant that she was a thing utterly useless, absolutely worthless; the very refuse of the winnowings of the flail of fate. But she accepted that too, so far as she understood it; she only sometimes wondered in a dull fierce fashion why, if she and the dust were sisters, the dust had its wings whilst she had none.

All day long the dust flew in and out and about as it liked, through the open doors, and among the tossing boughs, and through the fresh cool mists, and down the golden shafts of the sunbeams; and all day long she stayed in one place and toiled, and was first beaten and then cursed, or first cursed and then beaten,—which was all the change that her life knew. For herself, she saw no likeness betwixt her and the dust; for that escaped from the scourge and flew forth, but she abode under the flail always.

Nevertheless, Folle‐Farine was all the name she knew.

The great black wheel churned and circled in the brook water, and lichens and ferns and mosses made lovely all the page: 3 dark, shadowy, silent place; the red mill roof gleamed in the sun, under a million summer leaves; the pigeons came and went all day in and out of their holes in the wall; the sweet scents of ripening fruits in many orchards filled the air; the great grindstones turned and turned and turned, and the dust floated forth to dance with the gnat and to play with the sunbeam.

Folle‐Farine sat aloft, on the huge wet timbers above the wheel, and watched with her great sorrowful eyes, and wondered again, after her own fashion, why her namesake had thus liberty to fly forth whilst she had none.

Suddenly a shrill screaming voice broke the stillness savagely.

“Little devil!” cried the miller, “go fetch me those sacks, and carry them within, and pile them; neatly, do you hear? Like the piles of stone in the road.”

Folle‐Farine swung down from the timbers in obedience to the command, and went to the heap of sacks that lay outside the mill; small sacks, most of them; all of last year’s flour.

There was an immense gladiolus growing near, in the mill‐garden, where they were; a tall flower all scarlet and gold, and straight as a palm, with bees sucking into its bells, and butterflies poising on its stem. She stood a moment looking at its beauty; she was scarce any higher than its topmost bud, and was in her way beautiful, something after its fashion. She was a child of six or eight years, with limbs moulded like sculpture, and brown as the brook water; great lustrous eyes, half savage and half soft; a mouth like a red pomegranate bud, and straight dark brows—the brows of the friezes of Egypt.

Her only clothing was a little short white linen kirtle, knotted around her waist, and falling to her knees; and her skin was burned, by exposure to the sun, to a golden brown colour, though in texture it was soft as velvet, and showed all the veins like glass. Standing there in the deep grass, with the scarlet flower against her, and purple butterflies over her head, an artist would have painted her and called her by a score of names, and described for her some mystical or noble fate: as Anteros, perhaps, or as the doomed son of Procne, or as some child born to the Forsaken in the savage forest of Naxos, or conceived by Persephone, in the eternal page: 4 night of hell, whilst still the earth lay black and barren and fruitless, under the ban and curse of a bereaved maternity.

But here she had only one name, Folle‐Farine; and here she had only to labour drearily and stupidly, like the cattle of the field, and without their strength, and with barely so much even as their scant fare and begrudged bed.

The sunbeams that fell on her might find out that she had a beauty which ripened and grew rich under their warmth, like that of a red flower bud or a golden autumn fruit. But nothing else ever did. In none of the eyes that looked on her had she any sort of loveliness. She was Folle‐Farine; a little wicked beast that only merited at best a whip and a cruel word, a broken crust and a malediction; a thing born of the devil, and out of which the devil needed to be scourged incessantly.

The sacks were all small; they were the property of the peasant proprietors of the district: the department of Calvados. But though small they were heavy in proportion to her age and power. She lifted one, although with effort, yet with the familiarity of an accustomed action: poised it on her back, clasped it tight with her round slender arms, and carried it slowly through the open door of the mill. That one put down upon the bricks, she came for a second,—a third,—a fourth,—a fifth,—a sixth, working doggedly, patiently and willingly, as a little donkey works.

The sacks were in all sixteen; before the seventh she paused.

It was a hot day in the late summer: she was panting and burning with exertion; the bloom in her cheeks had deepened to scarlet; she stood a moment, resting, bathing her face in the sweet coolness of a white tall tuft of lilies.

The miller looked round where he worked, amongst his beans and cabbages, and saw.

“Little mule! Little beast!” he cried. “Would you be lazy—you!—who have no more right to live at all than an eft, or a stoat, or a toad!”

And as he spoke he came towards her. He had caught up a piece of rope with which he had been about to tie his beans to a stake, and he struck the child with it. The page: 5 sharp cord bit the flesh cruelly, curling round her bare chest and shoulders, and leaving a livid mark.

She quivered a little, but she said nothing; she lifted her head and looked at him, and dropped her hands to her sides. Her eyes glowed fiercely; her red curling lips shut tight; her straight brows drew together.

“Little devil! Will you work now?” said the miller. “Do you think you are to stand in the sun and smell at flowers—you! Pouf‐f‐f!”

Folle‐Farine did not move.

“Pick up the sacks this moment, little brute,” said the miller. “If you stand still a second before they are housed, you shall have as many stripes as there are sacks left untouched. Oh, hè: do you hear?”

She heard, but she did not move.

“Do you hear,” he pursued. “As many strokes as there are sacks, little wretch. Now—I will give you three moments to choose. One!”

Folle‐Farine still stood mute and immovable, her head erect, her arms crossed on her chest. A small, slender, bronze‐hued, half‐nude figure amongst the ruby hues of the gladioli and the pure snow‐like whiteness of the lilies.

“Two!”

She stood in the same attitude, the sacks lying untouched at her feet, a purple‐winged butterfly lighting one her head.

“Three!”

She was still mute; still motionless.

He seized her by the shoulder with one hand, and with the other lifted the rope.

It curled round her breast and back, again and again and again; she shuddered, but she did not utter a single cry. He struck her the ten times; with the same number of strokes as there remained sacks uncarried. He did not exert any great strength, for had he used his uttermost he would have killed her, and she was of value to him; but he scourged her with a merciless exactitude in the execution of his threat, and the rope was soon wet with drops of her bright young blood.

The noonday sun fell golden all around; the deep sweet peace of the silent country reigned everywhere; the pigeons fled to and fro in and out of their little arched homes; the page: 6 millstream flowed on, singing a pleasant song; now and then a ripe apricot dropped with a low sound on the turf; close about was all the radiance of summer flowers; of heavy rich roses, of yellow lime tufts, of sheaves of old‐fashioned comely phlox, and all the delicate shafts of the graceful lilies. And in the warmth the child shuddered under the scourge; against the light the black rope curled like a serpent darting to sting; among the sun‐fed blossoms there fell a crimson stain.

But never a word had she uttered. She endured to the tenth stroke in silence.

He flung the cord aside amongst the grass. “Daughter of devils!—what strength the devil gives!” he muttered.

Folle‐Farine said nothing. Her face was livid, her back bruised and lacerated, her eyes still glanced with undaunted scorn and untamed passion. Still she said nothing; but, as his hand released her, she darted as noiselessly as a lizard to the water’s edge, set her foot on the lowest range of the woodwork, and in a second leaped aloft to the highest point, and seated herself astride on that crossbar of timber on which she had been throned when he had summoned her first, above the foam of the churning wheels, and in the deepest shadow of innumerable leaves.

Then she lifted up a voice as pure, as strong, as fresh as the voice of a mavis in May time, and sang, with reckless indifference, a stave of song in a language unknown to any of the people of that place; a loud fierce air, with broken words of curious and most dulcet melody, which rang loud and defiant, yet melancholy, even in their rebellion, through the foliage, and above the sound of the loud mill water.

“It is a chaunt to the foul fiend,” the miller muttered to himself. “Well, why does he not come and take his own; he would be welcome to it.” And he went and sprinkled holy water on his rope, and said an ave or two over it to exorcise it.

Every fibre of her childish body ached and throbbed; the stripes on her shoulders burned like flame; her little brain was dizzy; her little breast was black with bruises; but still she sang on, clutching the timber with her hands to keep her from falling into the foam below, and flashing her proud eyes down through the shade of the leaves.

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“Can one never cut the devil out of her?” muttered the miller, going back to his work amongst the beans.

After a while the song ceased; the pain she suffered stifled her voice despite herself; she felt giddy and sick, but she sat there still in the shadow, holding on by the jutting woodwork, and watching water foam and eddy below.

The hours went away; the golden day died; the greyness of evening stole the glow from the gladioli and shut up the buds of the roses; the lilies gleamed but the whiter in the dimness of twilight; the vesper chimes were rung from the cathedral two leagues away over the fields.

The miller stopped the gear of the mill; the grindstones and the water‐wheels were set at rest; the peace of the night came down; the pigeons flew to roost in their niches; but the sacks still lay uncarried on the grass, and a spider had found time to spin his fairy ropes about them.

The miller stood on his threshold, and looked up at her where she sat aloft in the dusky shades of the leaves.

“Come down and carry these sacks, little brute,” he said. “If not—no supper for you to‐night.”

Folle‐Farine obeyed him and came down from the huge pile, slowly, her hands crossed behind her back, her head erect, her eyes glancing like the eyes of a wild hawk.

She walked straight past the sacks, across the dew‐laden turf, through the tufts of the lilies, and so silently into the house.

The entrance wa a wide kitchen, paved with blue and white tiles, clean as a watercress, filled with the pungent odour of dried herbs, and furnished with brass pots and pans, with walnut presses, with pinewood tressels, and with strange little quaint pictures and images of saints. On one of the tressels were set a jug of steaming milk, some rolls of black bread, and a big dish of stewed cabbages. At the meal there was already seated a lean, brown, wrinkled, careworn old serving woman, clad in the blue kirtle and the white head gear of Normandy.

The miller stayed the child at the threshold.

“Little devil—not a bit nor drop to‐night if you do not carry the sacks.”

Folle‐Farine said nothing, but moved on, past the food on the board, past the images of the saints, past the high lancet page: 8 window, through which the moonlight had begun to stream, and out at the opposite door.

There she climbed a steep winding stairway on to which that door had opened, pushed aside a little wooden wicket, entered a loft in the roof, loosened the single garment that she wore, shook it off from her, and plunged into the fragrant mass of daisied hay and of dry orchard mosses which served her as a bed. Covered in these, and curled like a dormouse in its nest, she clasped her hands above her head, and sought to forget in sleep her hunger and her wounds. She was well used to both.

Below there was a crucifix, with a bleeding God upon it: there was a little rudely sculptured representation of the Nativity; there was a wooden figure of St. Christopher; a portrait of the Madonna, and many other symbols of the church. But he child went to her bed without a prayer on her lips, and with a curse on her head, and bruises on her body.

Sleep, for once, would not come to her. She was too hurt and sore to be able to lie without pain: the dried grasses, so soft to her usually, were like thorns beneath the skin that still swelled and smarted from the stripes of the rope. She was feverish; she tossed and turned in vain; she suffered too much to be still; she sat up and stared with her passionate wistful eyes, at the leaves that were swaying against the square casement in the wall, and the moonbeam that shone so cold and bright across her bed.

She listened, all her sense awake, to the noises of the house. There were not many: a cat’s mew, a mouse’s scratch, the click‐clack of the old woman’s step, the shrill monotony of the old man’s voice, these were all. After a while even these ceased; the wooden shoes clattered up the wooden stairs, the house became quite still; there was only in the silence the endless flowing murmur of the water breaking against the motionless wheels of the mill.

Neither man nor woman had come near to bring her anything to eat or drink. She had heard them muttering their prayers before they went to rest, but no hand unlatched her door. She had no disappointment, because she had had no hope. She had rebellion, because Nature had grafted it in her; but she went no further. She did not know what it was to hope. She was only a young wild page: 9 animal, well used to blows, and drilled by them, but not tamed.

As soon as the place was silent, she got out of her nest of grass, slipped on her linen skirt, and opened her casement—a small square hole in the wall, and merely closed by a loose deal shutter, with a hole cut in it, scarcely bigger than her head. A delicious sudden rush of summer air met her burning face; a cool cluster of foliage hit her a soft blow across the eyes as the wind stirred it. They were enough to allure her.

Like any other young cub of the woods, she had only two instincts—air and liberty.

She thrust herself out of the narrow window with the agility that only is born of frequent custom, and got upon the shelving thatch of a shed which sloped a foot or so below, slid down the roof, and swung herself by the jutting bricks of the outhouse wall on to the grass. The house dog, a brindled mastiff, that roamed loose all night about the mill, growled and sprang at her; then, seeing who she was, put up his gaunt head and licked her face, and turned again to resume the rounds of his vigilant patrol.

Ere he went, she caught and kissed him, closely and fervently, without a word. The mastiff was the only living thing that did not hate her; she was grateful, in a passionate, dumb, unconscious fashion. Then she took to her feet, ran, as swiftly as she could, along the margin of the water, and leaped like a squirrel into the wood, on whose edge the mill stood.

Once there she was content.

The silence, the shadows, the darkness where the trees stood thick, the pale quivering luminance of the moon, the mystical eërie sounds that fill a woodland by night, all which would have had terror for tamer and happier creatures of her years, had only for her a vague entranced delight. Nature had made her without one pulse of fear; and she had remained too ignorant to have been ever taught it.

It was still warm with all the balmy breath of midsummer: there were heavy dews everywhere; here and there on the surface of the water, there gleamed the white closed cups of the lotus; through the air there passed, now and then, the soft, grey, dim body of a night‐bird on the page: 10 wing; the wood, whose trees were pines, and limes, and maples, was full of a deep dreamy odour; the mosses that clothed many of the branches hung, film‐like, in the wind in lovely coils and web‐like phantasies.

Around stretched the vast country, dark and silent, as in a trance, the stillness only broken by some faint note of a sheep’s bell, some distant song of a mule‐driver passing homeward.

The child strayed onward through the trees, insensibly soothed, and made glad, she knew not why, by all the dimness and the fragrance round her.

She stood up to her knees in the shallow freshets that every now and then broke up through the grasses: she felt the dews, shaken off the leaves above, fall deliciously upon her face and hair; she filled her hands with the night‐blooming marvel‐flower, and drank in its sweetness as though it were milk and honey; she crouched down and watched her own eyes look back at her from the dark gliding water of the river.

Then she threw herself on her back upon the mosses—so cool and moist that they seemed like balm upon the bruised hot skin—and lay there looking upward at the swift mute passage of the flitting owls, at the stately flights of the broad‐winged moths, at the movement of the swift brown bats, at the soft trembling of the foliage in the breeze, at the great clouds slowly sailing across the brightness of the moon. All these things were infinitely sweet to her with the sweetness of freedom, of love, of idleness, of rest, of all things which her life had never known; so dumbly may the young large‐eyed antelope feel the beauty of the forest in the hot lull of tropic nights, when the speed of the pursuer has relaxed, and the aromatic breath of the panther is no more against its flank.

She lay there long, quite motionless, tracing, with a sort of voluptuous delight, all movements in the air, all changes in the clouds, all shadows in the leaves. All the immense multitude of ephemeral life which, unheard in the day, fills the earth with innumerable whispering voices after the sun has set, now stirred in every herb and under every bough around her.

The silvery ghost‐like wing of an owl touched her forehead once. A little dormouse ran across her feet. Strange page: 11 shapes floated across the cold white surface of the water. Quaint things, hairy, filmy‐winged, swam between her and the stars. But none of these things had terror for her; they were things of the night, with which she felt vaguely the instinct of kinship.

She was only a little wild beast, they said, the offspring of darkness, and vileness, and rage and disgrace. And yet, in a vague imperfect way, the glories of the night, its mysterious charm and solemn beauty, its melancholy and lustrous charm, quenched the fierceness in her dauntless eyes, and filled them with dim wondering tears, and stirred the half‐dead soul in her to some dull pain, some nameless ecstacy, that were not merely physical.

And then, in her way, being stung by these, and moved, she knew not why, to a strange sad sense of loneliness and shame, and knowing no better she prayed.

She raised herself on her knees, and crossed her hands upon her chest, and prayed after the fashion that she had seen men and women and children pray at roadside shrines and crosses; prayed aloud, with a little beating breaking heart, like the young child she was.

“Oh Devil! if I be indeed thy daughter, stay with me; leave me not alone: lend me thy strength and power, and let me inherit of thy kingdom. Give me this, oh great Lord, and I will praise thee and love thee always.”

She prayed in all earnestness, in all simplicity, in broken, flattering language; knowing no better; knowing only that she was alone on the earth and friendless, and very hungry and in sore pain, whilst this mighty unknown King of the dominion of darkness, whose child she ever heard she was, had lost her, or abandoned her; and reigned afar in some immortal world oblivious of her misery.

The silence of the night alone gave back the echo of her own voice. She waited breathless for some answer, for some revelation, some reply; there only came the pure cold moon, sailing straight from out a cloud, and striking on the waters.

She rose sadly to her feet, and went back along the shining course of the stream, through the grasses and the mosses, and under the boughs, to her little nest under the eaves.

As she left the obscurity of the wood and passed into the fuller light, her bare feet glistening, and her shoulders wet with the showers of dew, a large dark shape flying down the page: 12 wind smote her with his wings upon the eyes, lighted one moment on her head, and then swept onward lost in shade. At that moment, likewise, a radiant golden globe flashed to her sight, dropped to her footsteps, and shone an instant in the glisten from the skies.

It was but a great goshawk seeking for its prey; it was but a great meteor fading and falling at its due appointed hour; but to the heated, savage, dreamy fancy of the child it seemed an omen, an answer, a thing of prophecy, a spirit of air; nay, why not Him himself?

In legends, which had been the only lore her ears had ever heard, it had been often told he took such shapes as this.

“If he should give me his kingdom!” she thought; and her eyes flashed alight; her heart swelled; her cheeks burned. The little dim untutored brain could not hold the thought long or close enough to grasp, or sift, of measure it; but some rude rich glory, impalpable, unutterable, seemed to come to her and bathe her in its heat and colour. She was his offspring, so they all told her; why not, then, also his heir?

She felt, as felt the goatherd or the charcoal‐burner in those legends she had fed on, who was suddenly called from poverty and toil, from hunger and fatigue, from a fireless hearth, and a bed of leaves, to inherit some fairy empire, to ascend to some region of the gods.

Like one of these, hearing the summons to some great unknown imperial power smite all his poor pale barren life to splendour, so Folle‐Farine, standing by the water’s side in the light of the moon, desolate, ignorant, brute‐like, felt elected to some mighty heritage unseen of men. If this were waiting for her in the future, what matter, now, were stripes or wounds or woe?

She smiled a little, dreamily, like one who beholds fair visions in his sleep, and stole back over the starlit grass, and swung herself upward by the tendrils of ivy, and crouched once more down in her nest of mosses.

And either the courage of the spirits of darkness, or the influence of instincts dumb but nascent, was with her; for she fell asleep in her little loft in the roof as though she were a thing cherished of heaven and earth, and dreamed happily all through the hours of the slowly‐rising dawn: page: 13 her bruised body and her languid brain and her aching heart all stilled and soothed, and her hunger and passion and pain forgotten; with the night‐blooming flowers still clasped in her hands, and on her closed mouth a smile.

For she dreamed of her Father’s kingdom, a kingdom which no man denies to the creature that has beauty and youth, and is poor and yet proud, and is of the sex of its mother.

CHAPTER II.

IN one of the most fertile and most fair districts of northern France there was a little Norman town, very, very old and beautiful exceedingly by reason of its ancient streets, its high peaked roofs, its marvelous galleries and carvings, its exquisite greys and browns, its silence and its colour, and its rich still life.

Its centre was a great cathedral, noble as York or Chartres; a cathedral, whose spire shot to the clouds, and whose innumerable towers and pinnacles were all pierced to the day, so that they blue sky shone and the birds of the air flew all through them. A slow brown river, broad enough for market boats and for corn barges, stole through the place to the sea, lapping as it went the wooden piles of the houses, and reflecting the quaint shapes of the carvings, the hues of the signs and the draperies, the dark spaces of the dormer windows, the bright heads of some casement‐cluster of carnations, the laughing face of a girl leaning out to smile on her lover.

All around it lay the deep grass unshaven, the leagues on leagues of fruitful orchards, the low blue hills tenderly interlacing one another, the fields of colza, where the white head‐dress of the women workers flashed in the sun like a silvery pigeon’s wing. To the west there were the deep green woods, and the wide plains golden with gorse of Arthur’s and of Merlin’s lands; and beyond, to the northward, was the dim stretch of the ocean breaking on a yellow shore, whither the river ran, and wither led straight shady roads, hidden with linden and with poplar trees, and page: 14 marked ever and anon by a wayside wooden Christ, or by a little murmuring well crowned with a crucifix.

A beautiful, old, shadowy, ancient place: picturesque everywhere; often silent, with a sweet sad silence that was chiefly broken by the sound of bells or the chaunting of choristers. A place of the Middle Ages still. With lanterns swinging on cords from house to house as the only light; with wondrous scroll‐works and quaint signs at the doors of all its traders; with monks’ cowls and golden croziers and white‐robed acolytes in its streets; with the subtle smoke of incense coming out from the cathedral door to mingle with the odours of the fruits and flowers in the market‐place; with great flat‐bottomed boats drifting down the river under the leaning eaves of its dwellings; and with the galeries of its opposing houses touching so nearly that a girl leaning on one could stretch a Provence rose or toss an Easter egg across to her neighbour in the other.

Doubtless, there were often squalor, poverty, dust, filth, and uncomeliness within these old and beautiful homes. Doubtless often the dwellers therein were housed like cattle and slept like pigs, and looked but once out the woods and waters of the landscapes round for one hundred times that they looked at their hidden silver in an old delf jug, or at their tawdry coloured prints of St. Victorian or St. Scævola.

But yet much of the beauty and the nobility of the old, simple, restful rich‐hued life of the past still abode there, and remained with them. In the straight, lithe form of their maidens, untrammelled by modern garb, and moving with the free majestic grace of forest does. In the vast, dim, sculptured chambers, where the grandam span by the wood fire, and the little children played in the shadows, and the lovers whispered in the embrasured window. In the broad market‐place, where the mules cropped the clover, and the tawny awnings caught the sunlight, and the white caps of the girls framed faces fitted for the pencils of the missal painters, and the flush of colour form mellow wall‐fruits and grape‐clusters glanced amidst the shelter of deepest freshest green. In the perpetual presence of their cathedral, which through sun and storm, through frost and summer, through noon and midnight stood there amidst them, and watched the galled oxen tread their painful way, and the page: 15 scourged mules droop their humble heads, and the helpless harmless flocks go forth to the slaughter, and the old weary lives of the men and women pass through hunger and cold to the grave, and the sun and the moon rise and set, and the flowers and the children blossom and fade, and the endless years come and go, bringing peace, bringing war; bringing harvest, bringing famine; bringing life, bringing death; and beholding these, still said to the multitude in its terrible irony, “Lo! your God is Love.”

This little town lay far from the great Paris highway and all greatly frequented tracks. It was but a short distance from the coast, but near no harbour of greater extent than such as some small fishing village had made in the rocks for the trawlers. Few strangers ever came to it, except some wandering painters or antiquaries. It sent its apples and eggs, its poultry and honey, its colza and corn, to the use of the great cities; but it was rarely that any of its own people went thither.

Now and then some one of the oval‐faced, blue‐eyed, lithe‐limbed maidens of its little homely households would sigh and flush and grow restless, and murmur of Paris; and would steal out in the break of a warm grey morning whilst only the birds were still waking; and would patter away in her wooden shoes over the broad, white, southern road, with a stick over her shoulder, and a bundle of all her worldly goods upon the stick. And she would look back often, often, as she went; and when all was lost in the blue haze of distance save the lofty spire which she still saw through her tears, she would say in her heart, with her lips parched and trembling, “I will come back again.”

But none such ever did come back.

They came back no more than did the white sweet sheaves of the lilies which the women gathered and sent to be bought and sold in the city—to gleam one faint summer night in a gilded balcony, and to be flung out the next morning, withered and dead.

One amongst the few who had thus gone whither the lilies went, and of whom people would still talk as their mules paced homewards through the lanes at twilight, had been Reine Flamma, the daughter of the miller of Yprès Yprés .

Yprès Yprés was a beechen‐wooded hamlet on the northern out‐ page: 16 skirt of the town, a place of orchards and wooded tangle; through which there ran a branch of the brimming river, hastening to seek and join the sea, and caught a moment on its impetuous way, and forced to work by the grim millwheels that had churned the foam‐bells there for centuries. The millhouse was very ancient; its timbers were carved all over into the semblance of shields and helmets, and crosses, and fleur‐de‐lis, and its frontage was of quaint parqueted work, black and white, except where the old blazonries had been.

It had been handed down from sire to son of the same race through many generations—a race hard, keen, unlearned, superstitious, and caustic‐tongued—a race wedded to old ways, credulous of legend, chaste of life, cruel of judgement; harshly strong, yet ignorantly weak; a race holding dearer its heirloom of loveless, joyless, bigoted virtue even than those gold and silver pieces which had ever been its passion, hidden away in earthen pipkins under old apple‐roots, or in the crannies of wall timber, of in secret nooks of oaken cupboards.

Claude Flamma, the last of this toilsome, God‐fearing, man‐begrudging, Norman stock, was true to the type and the traditions of his people.

He was too ignorant even to read; but priests do not deem this a fault. He was avaricious; but may will honour a miser quicker than a spendthrift. He was cruel; but in the market‐place he always took heed to give his mare a full feed, so that if she were pinched of her hay in her stall at home none were the wiser, for she had no language but that of her wistful black eyes; and this is a speech to which men stay but little to listen. The shrewd, old, bitter‐tongued, stern‐living man was feared and respected with the respect that fear begets; and in truth he had a rigid virtue in his way, and was proud of it, with scorn for those who found it hard to walk less straightly and less circumspectly than himself.

He married late; his wife died in childbirth; his daughter grew into the perfection of womanhood under the cold, hard, narrow rule of his severity and his superstition. He loved her, indeed, with as much love as it was possible for him ever to feel, and was proud of her beyond all other things; saved for her, toiled for her, muttered ever that it page: 17 was for her when at confession he related how his measures of flour had been falsely weighted, and how he had filched from the corn brought by the widow and the fatherless. For her he had sinned: from one to whom the good report of his neighbours and the respect of his own conscience were as the very breath of life, it was the strongest proof of love that he could give. But this love never gleamed one instant in his small sharp grey eyes, nor escaped ever by a single utterance from his lips. Reprimand, homily, or cynical rasping sarcasm, was all she ever heard from him. She believed that he despised, and almost hated her; he held it well for women to be tutored in subjection and in trembling.

At twenty‐two Reine Flamma was the most beautiful woman in Calvados, and the most wretched.

She was straight as a pine; cold as snow; graceful as a stem of wheat: lovely and silent; with a mute proud face, in which the eyes alone glowed with a strange, repressed, speechless passion and wishfulness. Her life was simple, pure, chaste, blameless, as the lives of the many women of her race who, before her, had lived and died in the shadow of that water‐fed wood had always been. Her father rebuked and girded at her, continually dreaming that he could paint whiter even the spotlessness of this lily, refine even the purity of this virgin gold.

She never answered him anything, nor in anything contradicted his will; not one amongst all the youths and maidens of her birthplace had ever heard so much as a murmur of rebellion from her; and the priests said that such a life as this would be fitter for the cloister than the marriage‐bed. None of them ever read the warning that these dark blue slumbering eyes would have given to any who should have had the skill to construe them right. There were none of such skill there; and so she, holding her peace, the men and women noted her ever with a curious dumb reverence, and said amongst themselves that the race of Flamma would die well and nobly in her.

“A saint!” said the good old gentle bishop of the district, as he blessed her one summer evening in her father’s house, and rode his mule slowly through the pleasant poplar lanes and breeze‐blown fields of colza back to his little quiet page: 18 homestead, where he tended his own cabbages and garnered his own honey.

Reine Flamma bowed her tall head meekly, and took his benediction in silence.

The morning after, the miller, rising as his custom was at daybreak, and reciting his paternosters, thanked the Mother of the World that she had given him thus strength and power to rear up his motherless daughter in purity and peace. Then he dressed himself in his grey patched blouse, groped his way down the narrow stair, and went in his daily habit to undraw the bolts and unloose the chains of his dwelling.

There was no need that morning for him; the bolts were already back; the house‐door stood wide open; on the threshold a brown hen perched pluming herself; there were the ticking of the clock; the chirping of the birds, the rushing of the water; these were the only sounds upon the silence.

He called his daughter’s name: there was no answer. He mounted to her chamber: it had no tenant. He searched hither and thither, in the house, and the stable, and the granary: in the mill, and the garden, and the wood; he shouted, he ran, he roused his neighbours, he looked in every likely and unlikely place: there was no reply.

There was only the howl of the watch‐dog, who sat with his face to the south and mourned unceasingly.

And from that day neither he nor any man living there ever heard again of Reine Flamma.

Some indeed did notice that at the same time there disappeared from the town one who had been there through all that spring and summer. One who had lived strangely, and been clad in an odd rich fashion, and had been whispered as an Eastern prince by reason of his scattered gold, his unfamiliar tongue, his black‐browed, star‐eyed, deep‐hued beauty, like the beauty of the passion‐flower. But none had ever seen this stranger and Reine Flamma in each other’s presence; and the rumour was discredited as a foulness absurd and unseemly to be said of a woman whom their bishop had called a saint. So it died out, breathed only by a few mouths, and it came to be accepted as a fact that she must have perished in the deep fast‐flowing river by some false step on the mill‐timber, as she went at dawn to feed page: 19 her doves, or by some strange sad trance of sleep‐walking, from which she had been known more than once to suffer.

Claudis Flamma said little; it was a wound that bled inwardly. He toiled, and chaffered, and drove hard bargains, and worked early and late with his hireling, and took for the household service an old Norman peasant‐woman more aged than himself, and told no man that he suffered. All that he ever said was, “She was a saint: God took her;” and in his martyrdom he found a hard pride and a dull consolation.

It was no mere metaphoric form of words with him. He believed in miracles and all manner of Divine interposition, and he believed likewise that she, his angel, being too pure for earth, had been taken by God’s own hand up to the bosom of Mary. This honour which had befallen his first‐begotten shed both sanctity and splendour on his cheerless days; and when the little children and the women saw him pass, they cleared from this way as from a prince’s, and crossed themselves as they changed words with one whose daughter was the bride of Christ.

So six years passed away; and the name of Reine Flamma was almost forgotten, but embalmed in memories of religious sanctity, as the dead heart of a saint is embedded in amber and myrrh.

At the close of the sixth year there happened what many said was a thing devil‐conceived and wrought out by the devil to the shame of a pure name, and to the hindrance of the people of God.

One winter’s night Claudis Flamma was seated in his kitchen, having recently ridden home his mare from the market in the town.

The fire burned in ancient fashion on the hearth, and it was so bitter without that even his parsimonious habits had relaxed, and he had piled some wood, liberally mingled with dry moss, that cracked, and glowed, and shot flame up the wide black shaft of the chimney.

The day’s work was over; the old woman‐servant sat spinning flax on the other side of the fire; the great mastiff was stretched sleeping quietly on the brick floor; the blue pottery, the brass pans, the oaken presses that had been the riches of his race for generations, glimmered in the light; the doors were barred, the shutters closed; around the page: 20 house the winds howled, and beneath its walls the fretting water hissed.

The miller, overcome with the past cold and present warmth, nodded on his wooden settle and slept, and muttered dreamily in his sleep, “A saint—a saint!—God took her.”

The old woman, hearing, looked across at him, and shook her head, and went on with her spinning with lips that moved inaudibly: she had been wont to say, out of her taskmaster’s hearing, that no women who was beautiful was ever a saint as well. And some thought that this old creature, Marie Pitchou, who had used to live in a miserable hut on the other side of the wood, had known more than she had chosen to tell of the true fate of Reine Flamma.

Suddenly a blow on the panels of the door sounded through the silence. The miller, awakened in a moment, started to his feet and grasped his ash staff with one hand, and with the other the oil‐lamp burning on the tressel. The watch‐dog arose, but made no hostile sound.

A step crushed the dead leaves without and passed away faintly; there was stillness again; the mastiff went to the bolted door, smelt beneath it, and scratched at the panels.

On the silence there sounded a small, timid, feeble beating on the wood from without; such a slight fluttering noise as a wounded bird might make in striving to rise.

“It is nothing evil,” muttered Flamma. “If it were, evil the beast would not want to have the door opened. It may be some one sick or stray.”

All this time he was in a manner charitable, often conquering the niggardly instincts of his character to try and save his soul by serving the wretched. He was a miser, and he loved to gain, and loathed to give; but since his daughter had been taken to the saints he had striven with all his might to do good enough to be taken likewise to that heavenly rest.

Any crust bestowed on the starveling, any bed of straw afforded to the tramp, caused him a sharp pang; but since his daughter had been taken he had tried to please God by this mortification of his own avarice and diminution of his own gains. He could not vanquish the nature that was engrained in him. He would rob the widow of an ephah of wheat, and leave his mare famished in her stall, because page: 21 it was his nature to find in all such saving a sweet savour; but he would not turn away a beggar or refuse a crust to a wayfarer, lest, thus refusing, he might turn away from him an angel unawares.

The mastiff scratched still at the panels; the sound outside had ceased.

The miller, setting the lamp down on the floor, gripped more firmly the ashen stick, undrew the bolts, turned the stout key, and opened the door slowly, and with caution. A loud gust of wind blew dead leaves against his face; a blinding spray of snow scattered itself over his bent stretching form. In the darkness without, whitened from head to foot, there stood a little child.

The dog went up to her and licked her face with kindly welcome. Claudis Flamma drew her with a rough grasp across the threshold, and went out into the air to find whose footsteps had been those which had trodden heavily away after the first knock.

The snow, however, was falling fast; it was a cloudy moonless night. He did not dare to go many yards from his own portals, lest he should fall into some ambush set by robbers. The mastiff too was quiet which indicated that there was no danger near, so the old man returned, closed the door carefully, drew the bolts into their places, and came towards the child, whom the woman Pitchou had drawn towards the fire.

She was a child of four or five years old; huddled in coarse linen and in a little red garment of fox’s skin, and blanched from head to foot, for the flakes were frozen on her and on the hood that covered, gipsy‐like, her curls. It was a strange, little, ice‐cold, ghost‐like figure, but out of the mass of icicles and whiteness there glowed great beaming frightened eyes and a mouth like a scarlet berry; the radiance and the contrast of it were like the glow of holly fruit thrust our from a pile of drifted snow.

The miler shook her by the shoulder.

“Who brought you?”

“Phratos,” answered the child, with a stifled sob in her throat.

“And who is that?”

“Phratos,” answered the child again.

“Is that a man or a woman?”

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The child made no reply; she seemed not to comprehend his meaning. The miller shook her again, and some drops of water fell from the ice that was dissolving in the warmth.

“Why are you come here?” he asked, impatiently.

She shook her head, as though to say none knew so little of herself as she.

“You must have a name,” he pursued harshly and in perplexity. “What are you called? Who are you?”

The child suddenly raised her great eyes that had been fastened on the leaping flames, and flashed them upon his in a terror of bewildered ignorance—the piteous terror of a stray dog.

“Phratos,” she cried once more, and the cry now was half a sigh, half a shriek.

Something in that regard pierced him and startled him; he dropped his hand off her shoulder, and breathed quickly; the old woman gave a low cry, and staring with all her might at the child’s small dark, fierce, lovely face, fell to counting her wooden beads and mumbling many prayers.

Claudis Flamma turned savagely on her as if stung by some unseen snake, and willing to wreak his vengeance on the nearest thing that was at hand.

“Fool! cease your prating!” he muttered, with a brutal oath. “Take the animal and search her. Bring me what you find.”

Then he sat down on the stool by the fire, and braced his lips tightly, and locked his bony hands upon his knees. He knew what blow awaited him; he was no coward, and he had manhood enough in him to press any iron into his soul and tell none that it hurt him.

The old woman drew the stranger aside to a dusky corner of an inner chamber, and began to despoil her of her coverings. The creature did not resist; the freezing cold and long fatigue had numbed and silenced her: her eyelids were heavy with the sleep such cold produces, and she had not strength, because she had not consciousness enough, to oppose whatsoever they might choose to do to her. Only now and then her eyes opened, as they had opened on him, with a sudden lustre and fierceness, like those in a netted animal’s impatient but untamed regard.

Pitchou seized and searched her eagerly, stripping her of page: 23 her warm fox‐skin wrap, her scarlet hood of wool, her little rough hempen shirt, which were all dripping with the water from the melted snow.

The skin of the young waif was brown, with a golden bloom on it; it had been tanned by hot suns, but it was soft as silk in texture, and transparent, showing the course of each blue vein. Her limbs were not well nourished, but they were of perfect shaped and delicate bone; and the feet were the long, arched, slender feet of the southern side of the Pyrenees.

She allowed herself to be stripped and wrapped in a coarse piece of homespun linen; she was still half frozen, and in a state of stupor, either from amazement or from fear. She was quite passive, and she never spoke. Her apathy deceived the old crone, who took it for docility, and who, trusting to it, proceeded to take advantage of it, after the manner of her kind. About the small shapely head there hung a band of glittering coins; they were not gold, but the woman Pitchou thought they were, and seized them with gloating hands and ravenous eyes.

The child started from her torpor, shook herself free, and fought to guard them—fiercely, with tooth and nail, as the young fox whose skin she had worn might have fought for its dear life. The old woman on her side strove as resolutely; long curls of the child’s hair were clutched in the struggle; she did not wince or scream, but she fought—fought with all the breath and blood that were in her tiny body.

She was no match, with all her ferocity and fury, for the sinewy grip of the old peasant; and the coins were torn off her forehead and hidden away in a hole in the wood, out of her sight, where the old peasant hoarded all her precious treasures of copper coins and other trifles that she managed to secrete from her master’s all‐seeing eyes.

They were little metal sequins engraved with Arabic characters, chained together after the Eastern fashion. To Pitchou they looked a diadem of gold worthy of an empress.

The child watched them thus removed in perfect silence; from the moment they had been wrenched away, and the battle had been finally lost to her, she had ceased to struggle, as though disdainful of a fruitless contest. But a page: 24 great hate gathered in her eyes, and smouldered there like a half‐stifled fire—it burnt on for many a long year afterwards, unquenched.

When Pitchou brought her a cup of water and a roll of bread, she would neither eat nor drink, but turned her face to the wall,—mute.

“Those are just her father’s eyes,” the old woman muttered. She had seen them burn in the gloom of the evening through the orchard trees, as the stars had risen, and Reine Flamma listened to the voice that wooed her to her destruction.

She let the child be, and searched her soaked garments for any written word or any token that might be on them. Fastened roughly to the fox’s skin there was a faded letter. Pitchou could not read; she took it to her master.

Claudis Flamma grasped the paper and turned its superscription to the light of the lamp.

He could not read, by yet at sight of the characters his tough frame trembled, and his withered skin grew red with a sickly, feverish quickening of the blood.

He knew them.

Once, in a time long dead, he had been proud of those slender letters that had been so far more legible than any that the women of her class could pen, and on beholding which the good bishop had smiled, and passed a pleasant word concerning her being almost fitted to be his own clerk and scribe.

For a moment, watching those written cyphers that had no tongue for him, and yet seemed to tell their tale so that they scorched and withered up all the fair honour and pious peace of his old age, a sudden faintness, a sudden swooning sense seized him for the first time in all his life; his limbs failed him, he sank down on his seat again, he gasped for breath; he needed not to be told anything, he knew all. He knew that the creature whom he had believed so pure that God had deemed the earth unworthy of her youth was—his throat rattled, his lips were covered with foam, his ears were filled with a rushing, hollow sound, like the roaring of his own mill‐waters in a time of storm.

All at once he started to his feet, and glared at the empty space of the dim chamber, and struck his hands wildly together in the air, and cried aloud:

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“She was a saint, I said—a saint! A saint in body and soul! And I thought that God begrudged her, and held her too pure for man!”

And he laughed aloud—thrice.

The child hearing, and heavy with sleep, and eagerly desiring warmth, as a little frozen beast that coils itself in snow to slumber into death, startled by that horrible mirth, came forward.

The shirt fell off her as she moved. Her little naked limbs glimmered like gold in the dusky light; her hair was as a cloud behind her; her little scarlet mouth was half open, like the mouth of a child seeking its mother’s kiss; her great eyes, dazzled by the flame, flashed and burned and shone like stars. They had seen the same face ere then in Calvados.

She came straight to Claudis Flamma as though drawn by that awful and discordant laughter, and by that leaping ruddy flame upon the hearth, and she stretched out her arms and muttered a word and smiled, a little dreamily, seeking to sleep, asking to be caressed, desiring she knew not what.

He clenched his fist, and struck her to the ground. She fell without a sound. The blood flowed from her mouth.

He looked at her where she lay, and laughed once more. “She was a saint!—a saint! And the devil begot in her that!”

Then he went our across the threshold and into the night, with the letter still clenched in his hand.

The snow fell, the storm raged, the earth was covered with ice and water; he took no heed, but passed through it, his head bare and his eyes blind.

The dog let him go forth alone, and waited by the child.

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CHAPTER III.

ALL night long he was absent.

The old serving woman, terrified in so far as her dull brutish nature could be roused to fear, did what she knew, what she dared. She raised the little wounded naked creature, and carried her to her own pallet bed; restored her to consciousness by such rude means as she had knowledge of, and staunched the flow of blood.

She did all this harshly, as it was her custom to do all things, and without tenderness or even pity, for the sight of this stranger was unwelcome to her, and she also had guessed the message of that unread letter.

The child had been stunned by the blow, and she had lost some blood, and was weakened and stupefied and dazed; yet there seemed to her rough nurse no peril for her life, and by degrees she fell into a feverish, tossing slumber, sobbing sometimes in her sleep, and crying perpetually on the unknown name of Phratos.

The old woman Pitchou stood and looked at her. She, who had always known the true story of the disappearance which some had called death and some had deemed a divine interposition, had seen before that transparent brown skin, those hues in cheeks and lips like the carnation leaves, that rich, sun‐fed, dusky beauty, those straight dark brows.

“She is his sure enough,” she muttered. “He was the first with Reine Flamma. I wonder has he been the last.”

And she went down the stairs chuckling, as the low human brute will at any evil thought.

The mastiff stayed beside the child.

She went to the fire and threw more wood one, and sat down again to her spinning‐wheel, and span and dozed, and span and dozed again.

She was not curious: to her, possessing that thread to the secret of the past, which her master and her townsfolk had never held, it all seemed natural. It was an old, old story; there had been thousands like it; it was only strange because Reine Flamma had been held a saint.

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The hours passed on; the lamp paled, and its flame at last died out; in the loft above, where the dog watched, there was no sound; the old woman slumbered undisturbed, unless some falling ember of the wood aroused her.

She was not curious, nor did she care how the child fared. She had led that deadening life of perpetual labour and of perpetual want in which the human animal becomes either a machine or a devil. She was a machine; put to what use she might be—to spin flax, to card wool, to wring a pigeon’s throat, to bleed a calf to death, to bake or stew, to mumble a prayer or drown a kitten, it was all one to her. If she had a preference it might be for the office that hurt some living thing; but she did not care; all she heeded was whether she had pottage enough to eat at noonday, and the leaden effigy of her Mary safe round her throat at night.

The night went on, and passed away; one gleam of dawn shone through a round hole in the shutter; she wakened with a start to find the sun arisen, and the fire dead upon the hearth.

She shook herself and stamped her chill feet upon the bricks, and tottered on her feeble way, with frozen body, to the house door. She drew it slowly open, and saw by the light of the sun that it had been for some time morning.

The earth was everywhere thick with snow; a hoar frost sparkled over all the branches; great sheets of ice were whirled down the rapid mill‐stream; in one of the leafless boughs a robin sang, and beneath the bough a cat was crouched, waiting with hungry eager eyes, patient even in its famished impatience.

Dull as her sympathy was, and slow her mind, she started as she saw her master there.

Claudis Flamma was at work; the rough, hard, rude toil which he spared to himself no more than to those who were his hirelings. He was carting wood; going to and fro with huge limbs of trees that men in youth would have found it a severe task to move; he was labouring breathlessly, giving himself no pause, and the sweat was on his brow, although he trod ankle deep in snow, and although his clothes were heavy with icicles.

He did not see or hear her; she went up to him and page: 28 called him by name; he started, and raised his head and looked at her.

Dull though she was, she was in a manner frightened by the change upon his face; it had been lean, furrowed, weather‐beaten always, but it was livid now, with bloodshot eyes, and a bruised, broken, yet withal savage look that terrified her. He did not speak, but gazed at her like a man recalled from some drugged sleep back to the deeds and memories of the living world.

The old woman held her peace a few moments; then spoke out in her own blunt, dogged fashion.

“Is she to stay?”

Her mind was not awake enough for any curiosity; she only cared to know if the child stayed: only so much as would concern her soup kettle, her kneaded dough, her spun hemp, her household labour.

He turned for a second with the gesture that a trapped fox may make, held fast, yet striving to essay a death grip; then he checked himself, and gave a mute sign of assent, and heaved up a fresh log of wood, and went on with his labours, silently. She knew of old his ways too well to venture to ask more. She knew, too, that when he worked like this, fasting and in silence, there had been long and fierce warfare in his soul, and some great evil done for which he sought to make atonement.

So she left him, and passed in to the house, and built up afresh her fire, and swept her chamber out, and fastened up her round black pot to boil, and muttered all the while,—

“Another mouth to feed; another breast to tend.”

And the thing was bitter to her; because it gave trouble and took food.

Now, what the letter had been, or who had deciphered it for him, Claudis Flamma never told to any man; and from the little strange creature no utterance could be ever got.

But the child who had come in the night and the snow tarried at Yprès Yprés from that time thenceforward.

Claudis Flamma nourished, sheltered, clothed her; but he did all these begrudgingly, harshly, scantily; and he did all these with an acrid hate and scorn, which did not cease, but rather grew with time.

The blow which had been her earliest welcome was not the first that she received from him by many; and whilst page: 29 she was miserable exceedingly, she showed it, not as children do, but rather like some chained and untamed animal, in fearless stupor and in sudden, sharp ferocity. And this the more because she spoke but a very few words of the language of the people amongst whom she had been brought; her own tongue was one full of round vowels and strange sounds, a tongue unknown to them.

For many weeks he said not one word to her, cast not one look at her; he let her lead the same life that was led by the beetles that crawled in the timbers, or by the pigs that couched and were kicked in the straw. The woman Pitchou gave her such poor scraps of garments or of victuals as she chose; she could crouch in the corner of the hearth where the fire warmth reached; she could sleep in the hay in the little loft under the roof; so much she could do and no more.

After that first moment in which her vague appeal for pity and for rest had been answered by the blow that struck her senseless, the child had never made a moan, nor sought for any solace.

All the winter through she lay curled up on the tiles by the fence, with her arms round the great body of the dog and his head upon her chest; they were both starved, beaten, kicked, and scourged, with brutal words oftentimes; they had the community of misfortune, and they loved one another.

The blow on her head, the coldness of the season, the scanty food that was cast to her, all united to keep her brain stupefied and her body almost motionless. She was like a young bear that is motherless, wounded, frozen, famished, but which, coiled in an almost continual slumber, keeps its blood flowing and its limbs alive. And, like the bear, with the spring she awakened.

When the townsfolk and the peasants came to the mill, and first saw this creature there, with her wondrous vivid hues, and her bronzed half‐naked limbs, they regarded her in amazement, and asked the miller whence she came. He set his teeth, and answered ever:

“The woman that bore her was Reine Flamma.”

The avowal was a penance set to himself, but to it he never added more; and they feared his bitter temper and his caustic tongue too greatly to press it on him, or even to page: 30 ask him whether his daughter were with the living or the dead.

With the unfolding of the young leaves, and the loosening of the frost‐bound waters, and the unveiling of the violet and the primrose under the shadows of the wood, all budding life revives, and so did hers. For she could escape from the dead, cold, bitter atmosphere of the silent and loveless house, where her bread was begrudged, and the cudgel was her teacher, out into the freshness and the living sunshine of the young blossoming world, where the birds and the beasts and the tender blue flowers and the curling green boughs were her comrades, and where she could stretch her limbs in freedom, and coil herself among the branches, and steep her limbs in the coolness of waters, and bathe her aching feet in the moisture of rain‐filled grasses.

With the spring she arose, the true forest animal she was; wild, fleet, incapable of fear, sure of foot, in unison with all the things of the earth and air, and stirred by them to a strange, dumb, ignorant, passionate gladness.

She had been scarce seen in the winter; with the breaking of the year the people from more distant places, who rode their mules down to mill on their various errands, stared at this child and wondered amongst themselves greatly, and at length asked Claudis Flamma whence she came.

He answered ever, setting hard his teeth:

“The woman that bore her was one accursed, whom men deemed a saint—Reine Flamma.”

They dared not ask him more; for many were his debtors.

But when they went away, and gossiped amongst themselves by the wayside well or under the awnings of the market stalls, they said to one another that it was just as they had thought long ago; the creature had been no better than her kind; and they had never credited the fable that God had taken her, though they had humoured the miller because he was aged and in his dotage. Whilst one old woman, a withered and witch‐like crone, who had toiled in from the fishing village with a kreel upon her back and the smell of the sea about her rags, heard, standing in the market‐place, and laughed, and mocked them, these seers page: 31 who were so wise after the years had gone, and when the truth was clear.

“You knew, you knew, you knew!” she echoed, with a grin upon her face. “Oh yes! you were so wise! Who, seven years through, said that Reine Flamma was a saint, and taken by the saints into their keeping? And who hissed at me for a foul‐mouthed crone when I said that the devil had more to do with her than the good God, and that the black‐browed gipsy, with jewels for eyes in his head, like the toad, was the only master to whom she gave herself? Oh‐hè, you were so wise!”

She mocked them, and they were ashamed, and held their peace; well knowing that indeed no creature amongst them had ever been esteemed so pure, so chaste, and so honoured of heaven as had been the miller’s daughter.

Many remembered the “gipsy with the jewelled eyes,” and was those brilliant, fathomless, midnight eyes reproduced in the small rich face of the child whom Reine Flamma, as her own father said, had borne in shame whist they had been glorifying her apotheosis. And it came to be said, as time went on, that this unknown stranger had been the fiend himself, taking human shape for the destruction of one pure soul, and the confusion of all true children of the church.

Legend and tradition still held fast their minds in this remote, ancient, and priest‐ridden place; in their belief the devil was still a living power, traversing the earth and air in search of souls, and not seldom triumphing: of metaphor or myth they were not ignorant; Satan to them was a personality, terrific, and oftentimes irresistible, assuming at will shapes grotesque or awful, human or spiritual. Their forefathers had beheld him; why not they?

So the henhucksters and poulterers, the cider makers and tanners, the fisherfolk from the sea‐board, and the peasant proprietors from the country round, came at length in all seriousness to regard the young child at Yprès Yprés as a devil‐born thing. “She was hell‐begotten,” they would mutter, when they saw her; and they would cross themselves, and avoid her if they could.

The time had gone by, unhappily, as they considered, when men had been permitted to burn such creatures as this; they knew it and were sorry for it; the world, they page: 32 thought, had been better when Jews had blazed like torches, and witches had crackled like firewood; such treats were forbidden now, they knew, but many, for all that, thought within themselves that it was a pity it should be so, and that it was mistaken mercy in the age they lived in which forbade the purifying of the earth by fire of such as she.

In the winter time, when they first saw her, unusual floods swept the country, and destroyed much of their property; in the spring which followed there were mildew and sickness everywhere: in the summer there was a long drought, and by consequence there came a bad harvest, and great suffering and scarcity.

There were not a few in the district who attributed all these woes to the advent of the child of darkness, and who murmured openly in their huts and homesteads that no good would befall them so long as this offspring of hell were suffered in their midst.

Since, however, the time was past when the broad market‐place could have been filled with a curious, breathless, eager crowd, and the grey cathedral have grown red in the glare of flames fed by a young living body, they held their hands from doing her harm, and said these things only in their own ingle‐nooks, and contented themselves with forbidding their children to consort with her, and with drawing their mules to the other side of the road when they met her. They did not mean to be cruel; they only acted in their own self‐defence, and dealt with her as their fellow‐countrymen dealt with a cagote—“only.”

Hence, when, with the reviving year the child’s dulled brain awakened, and all the animal activity in her sprang into vigorous action, she found herself shunned, marked, and glanced at with averted looks of mingled dread and scorn. “A daughter of the devil!” she heard again and again muttered as they passed her; she grew to take shelter in this repute as in a fortress, and to be proud, with a savage pride, of her imputed origin.

It made her a little fierce, mute, fearless, reckless, all‐daring, and all enduring animal. An animal in her ferocities, her mute instincts, her supreme patience, her physical perfectness of body and of health. Perfect of shape and hue; full of force to resist; ignorant either of hope or fear; de‐ page: 33 siring only one thing, liberty; with no knowledge, but with unerring instinct.

She was at an age when happier creatures have scarce escaped from their mother’s arms; but she had not even thus early a memory of her mother, and she had been shaken off to live or die, to fight or famish, as a young fox whose dam has been flung to the hounds is driven away to starve in the winter woods, or save himself, if he have strength, by slaughter.

She was a tame animal only in one thing:—she took blows uncomplainingly, and as though comprehending that they were her inevitable portion.

“The child of the devil!” they said. In a dumb, half unconscious fashion, this five‐year‐old creature wondered sometimes why the devil had not been good enough to give her a skin that would not feel, and veins that would not bleed.

She had always been beaten ever since her birth; she was beaten here; she thought it a law of life, as other children think it such to have their mother’s kiss and their daily food and nightly prayer.

Claudis Flamma did after his manner his duty by her. She was to him a thing accursed, possessed, loathsome, imbued with evil from her origin; but he did what he deemed his duty. He clothe her, if scantily; he fed her, if meagrely; he lashed her with all the caustic gibes that came naturally to his tongue; he set her hard tasks to keep her from idleness; he beat her when she did not, and not seldom when she did, them. He dashed holy water on her many times; and used a stick to her without mercy.

After this light he did his duty. That he should hate her, was to fulfil a duty also in his eyes; he had always been told that it was right to abhor the things of darkness; and to him she was a thing of utter darkness, a thing born of the black ruin of a stainless soul, begotten by the pollution and corruption of an infernal tempter.

He never questioned her as to her past—that short past, like the span of an insect’s life, which yet had sufficed to gift her with passions, with instincts, with desires, even with memories,—in a word, with character:—a character he could neither change nor break; a thing formed already, for good or for evil, abidingly.

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He never spoke to her except in sharp irony or in curt command. He set her hard tasks of bodily labour which she did not dispute, but accomplished so far as her small strength lay, with a mute dogged patience, half ferocity, half passiveness.

In those first winter days of her arrival he called her Folle‐Farine; taking the most worthless, the most useless, the most abject, the most despised thing he knew in all his daily life from which to name her; and the name adhered to her, and was the only one by which she was ever known.

Folle‐Farine!—as one may say, the Dust.

In time she grew to believe that it was really hers; even as in time she began to forget that strange, deep, rich tongue in which she had babbled her first words, and to know no other tongue than the Norman‐French about her.

Yet in her there existed imagination, tenderness, gratitude, and a certain wild and true nobility, though the old man Flamma would never have looked for them, never have believed in them. She was devil born: she was of devil nature in his eyes.

Upon his mill‐ditch, foul and fœtid, refuse would sometimes gather, and receiving the seed of the lily, would give birth to blossoms born stainless out of corruption: but the allegory had no meaning for him. Had any one pointed it out to him he would have taken the speaker into his orchard, and said:

“Will the crab bear a fruit not bitter? Will the nightshade give out sweetness and honey? Fool!—as the stem so the branch, as the sap so the blossom.”

And this fruit of sin and shame was poison in his sight.

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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