THE RECLUSE

“The third meeting will be fatal,” said Dan to himself as he climbed
the hill. “At the first I liked her beauty; now I am charmed with her
innocence and candour. When I meet her for the third time, it may be a
case of love.”

It was indeed astonishing how persistently the face and speech of Meg
haunted his mind. She was so unconscious of her own beauty, so free
from affectation, that he could not help admiring her simplicity of
character. He was not of a particularly inflammable nature, and
hitherto had shut his heart to the allurements of the other sex. The
ladies with whom he was acquainted, though refined in every sense of
the word, annoyed him by their persistent artificiality and their
insincerity. But this wild rose was free from such taints, and in her
conversation she displayed perfect candour. To Dan she was like the
inhabitant of another planet, and she had for him all the charm of
novelty. Without being a prophet, he could foresee that a few weeks in
her company would chain him for ever to her side. She was ignorant of
her power to do this, and in such unconsciousness lay a goodly portion
of her fascination. In sober earnest, the girl puzzled him. By her own
confession, she haunted the hills from morning till night, and by
rights should be an uncouth creature, a female barbarian. Yet her
accent and manners were both refined, and she had an evident
acquaintance with literature, though not of the newest. Dan supposed
that she owed such culture and polish as she possessed to Miss
Linisfarne; but if that lady took an interest in her, he could not
understand why she permitted the girl to roam the moors and woods at
will. It was certain that Meg was in no way conscious of her own
beauty, or she would have taken better care of her appearance, her
dress, and her complexion. She apparently cared nothing for these
things, and let the sun brown her face and the brambles scratch her
hands without giving the matter a thought. Such negligence was not
without its charm.

After that second meeting, Dan made up his mind to see her again; but
though he watched the whole of the next day, he caught not a glimpse
of his charmer. He had no excuse for calling on Dr. Merle, else he
might have taken advantage of it, and so passed at least a few minutes
by her side. It then struck him that Mother Jericho might know her
haunts, and he was on his way to the gipsy encampment for the purpose
of inquiry, when Fate provided him with an excuse for calling at the
doctor’s house. On the path through the pine wood he picked up a red
coral necklace which he had noticed her wearing. She had doubtless
lost it on one of her excursions.

“Good!” said Dan, slipping it into his pocket; “with this I can call
on Dr. Merle and find out more about the huntress. If I introduce
myself to the father, he may ask me to renew my visit, though I’m
afraid my position does not warrant such a hope. However, I’ll try; at
least, I shall see her again.”

Contrary to her promise, Meg had not been near the dell, so Dan
supposed that she had told her father of the invitation, and had been
forbidden to accept it. When he saw Dr. Merle, this idea was
dispelled. No one had less influence over his daughter than her
surviving parent. But Dan did not come to this conclusion for some
weeks.

The doctor’s house was built of grey stone, and placed as it was among
the sombre pines, looked singularly funereal. It was not even enclosed
by a fence, nor was there the slightest attempt at cultivating a
garden. There it stood, square and gloomy, as though dropped suddenly
into that savage solitude. It could be easily seen that the owner had
no care for his surroundings.

“If the father is so careless, I do not wonder that the daughter is
allowed to run wild,” murmured Dan, as he came in sight of this
mausoleum.

There was no bell, and though he knocked hard at the door, it was
quite five minutes before it opened. A bent old man, dressed in dingy
black, appeared, and, on being questioned, intimated in a surly voice
that Meg was at the Court.

“Is Dr. Merle in?”

“A’ be sleeping,” was the crabbed response.

“Then wake him and say that I wish to see him,” said Dan, enraged at
this uncivil reception. “Don’t close the door till you have delivered
my message.”

Somewhat startled by this determined bearing, so different to that of
the meek Farbis folk, the surly Cerberus shuffled away, and returned
in a few minutes with the information that the doctor would receive
him in his study. Dan followed his guide, who led him into a dark
apartment like a cell, and, pushing him in, the man shut the door as
though to prevent his escape.

“Well, what is it?” said a querulous voice at the other end of the
room. “Why do you come at this hour? Don’t you know it is my time for
sleeping?”

“Sleeping at three o’clock!” said Dan, with great astonishment.

There was a rustle in the darkness, and a little man came forward. He
did not recognize the voice, but guessing from its refinement that his
visitor was a gentleman, he pulled up the blind to see who had thus
roused him. A pale light filtered in through the dirty windowpanes,
and Dan saw before him a small and neatly made person clothed in a
ragged dressing-gown and carpet slippers. He was still handsome, and
not more than fifty years of age, but his waxen skin had an unhealthy
appearance, as though in want of fresh air and sunlight. His black
hair and beard, both streaked with grey, were dishevelled, and his
brown eyes had a vacant expression, as though his thoughts were far
away. Altogether he did not look the kind of man likely to cure a sick
person. Dan towered above him, and as he considered the little figure
and the darkened room, he was reminded of Stanley’s account of the
African pygmies in their sunless forest.

It took Dr. Merle some time to grasp the fact that his visitor was a
stranger, and he peered curiously at him, with one little hand raking
his untidy beard. So long did he look without speaking, that Dan felt
rather embarrassed, and hardly knew how to begin a conversation. Merle
saved him the trouble by speaking first.

“Who are you?” he asked, still in the same querulous voice. “What do
you want here? Physic?”

“Never took a drop of physic in my life, sir,” answered Dan,
good-humouredly. “As to my name, it is Dan.”

“Dan what?”

“Dan nothing,” responded the other, with great coolness–“simply Dan.
I am camping in the pinewood dell up yonder, and there I picked up
this necklace. I think it belongs to your daughter.”

Dr. Merle took the corals and turned them over in a dazed fashion. He
seemed to be half asleep, and started peevishly when his visitor’s
hearty voice rang through the room. The man’s nervous system was out
of order.

“It is Miss Merle’s, is it not?”

“Yes, yes; thank you for bringing it back. I have no doubt she would
say the same herself, but that she is with Miss Linisfarne at Farbis
Court.”

“In that case I need not wait,” said Dan, turning his back.

The doctor stopped him before he could reach the door.

“Don’t go yet. I see so few people. I should like to have a talk with
you.”

Seeing a chance of gaining information about Meg, the young man,
nothing loth, sat down. His face was to the light, and Merle, who had
shrunk back into the shadow, eyed him curiously.

“You are not a common man,” he said nervously.

“That depends upon what you call common, sir. I certainly don’t swear
or get drunk, or wear my hat while in the house, or—-”

“Yes, yes! I understand all that. But you are travelling for
pleasure?”

“That’s so, sir.”

“An American?” asked the doctor, noting the last reply.

Dan laughed. “No,” he said; “but I have been in the States. No doubt I
have picked up a few flowers of American speech.”

“In short, you are a gentleman masquerading under the name of Dan?”

“I don’t think I am bound to answer that question,” replied the other,
with marked significance.

Merle apologized at once. “Forgive me for being so curious. I do not
seek to know your secret, but my daughter Margaret was talking about
you, and I wondered who you were.”

“I hope Miss Merle is well,” said Dan, evading a direct reply.

“She is never ill. Strong as a young colt. That comes of her open-air
life.”

“Do you think it is quite safe for her to wander on these moors
alone?”

“Of course I do! Every one knows her. I should be sorry for the man
who insulted Meg. She can hold her own. Why do you laugh?”

“It seems such a strange up-bringing for a young lady.”

“True, true!” muttered the little doctor, with a frown; “but what
can I do? I am very poor. I make barely enough to live. I can do
nothing–nothing.”

“But Miss Linisfarne might; she is a rich old maid with no relatives.”

“Miss Linisfarne!” said Merle, in tones of deep sorrow.

“Yes, she might adopt her.”

Dan said the words carelessly enough, and was quite unprepared for
their effect on his host. Merle sprang out of his seat. He had grown
deadly white, and he seized Dan’s arm with a shaking hand. He looked
like a man thoroughly terrified, and could hardly articulate a word.

“Did–did Tim the Tinker–say–say–anything?”

“What do you mean?” asked Dan, with surprise.

Merle looked at him steadily for a moment, and then turned away,
wiping his forehead with a hankerchief.

“It’s all right,” Dan overheard him mutter; “he knows
nothing–nothing.”

The visitor began to think his host mad or drunk, and arose smartly to
his feet for the second time. Again Merle stopped him.

“No, no! Don’t go yet. I am subject to these–these attacks.” Then,
with a sudden burst of hospitality, “Won’t you have a glass of wine?”

Dan’s eyes wandered towards the writing-table, on which stood a
decanter apparently containing wine.

“Not that–not that,” muttered Merle, hastily putting it in a
cupboard; “that is medicine for my attacks.”

He averted his face from Dan, but the young man had already guessed
his secret. Shaking hand, glazed eye, retiring manner,–the inference
to be drawn from these was only too plain. Dr. Merle was a
laudanum-drinker, and the decanter so hurriedly removed contained the
fatal drug.

“No, thank you, doctor; I will not take any wine,” he said, disgusted
with this discovery. “I must be off at once. Give my respects and the
necklace to Miss Merle.”

“You’ll come again?”

“Certainly, in a day or so. Goodbye for the present.”

With a sigh of relief, he found himself again in the open air, and
looked back at the dismal house with a shudder.

“Poor girl!” he sighed, thinking of Meg; “what can she do with a
father like that? A laudanum-drinker–a dreamer of dreams–a nervous
fool. How, in the name of Nature, did he ever come to have that
splendid creature as his child? I don’t wonder she wanders about the
hills. Anything would be better than that dark room and its
unwholesome occupant.”

When he returned to his camp and had despatched his midday meal, Dan
had a meditative smoke. There was no chance of his being interrupted,
as Tinker Tim had gone on business to a neighbouring hamlet, and
Mother Jericho was confined to her tent with rheumatism. It was just
as well that he was left to his own thoughts, as he wished to think
out the position in which he now found himself. Dan was a very
masterful and practical person, and when he came to the conclusion
that anything was wrong, always wished to remedy it at once. Not long
after he left Merle’s house, he decided that there was something very
wrong indeed in the parish of Farbis, and that the something was
connected with Meg.

Recalling his conversations with Mother Jericho, Tinker Tim, and the
doctor, it seemed to him as though they all had more or less of an
understanding with one another. He was satisfied that the gipsies did
not know him, and yet it appeared strange that they should be so
friendly. Mother Jericho had prophesied that he should meet his fate
at the Gates of Dawn. The very next morning he met with Meg. After his
fight with Tim, that pugilist had remarked ambiguously, “None other
shall have her;” and reading this mystical utterance by the light of
recent events, Dan decided that it referred to Meg. Lastly, when he
suggested that Miss Linisfarne should adopt the girl, Merle had come
out with that curious remark anent Tinker Tim. Taking all these things
into consideration, Dan saw a connection between them which seemed to
hint at some mystery regarding Meg. This being the case, he also, from
the promptings of his heart and the utterances of the gipsies, was
implicated in some way unknown to himself.

“They can’t possibly know who I am,” he said, filling a fresh pipe;
“no one but Jack knew of my idea of the caravan. I don’t suppose those
carriage-builders would say a word. If, then, the old man and the
tinker only know me as ‘Dan,’ why are they always hinting and talking
about Meg? So far as I can see, they wish me to marry the girl, but
for what reason? Merle has an understanding with these vagrants, or he
would not have mentioned Tim. And why did he turn pale when I
suggested Miss Linisfarne as an adopted mother? There’s something
wrong here, I’m certain; but what it is I can’t make out.”

He eyed Peter in an absent manner, and Peter, meeting his eye, began
to slink off, thinking he had done something wrong. Dan raised himself
with a laugh at Peter’s fears, and called back the conscience-smitten
terrier.

“Come here, you fool dog,” he said, catching him by the scruff of the
neck; “I wish to talk to you. Sit up and cross your paws, sir.”

Peter, noting a twinkle in his master’s eyes, sat up laboriously and
stared meekly in front of him. Having thus procured a listener, Dan
addressed him, emphasizing his remarks with the stem of his pipe.

“Peter,” said he solemnly, “I am very much afraid that I take a
greater interest in Diana of Farbis than is advisable. I am not in
love with her, because a man of thirty is scarcely fool enough to fall
in love with a woman he has only seen twice. But I take an interest in
her, Peter, because I pity her wasted life. And if you think pity is
akin to love, Peter, you think wrongly. This is a matter of head and
heart. We had intended to go away to-morrow, Peter; but I have decided
to stay and find out what all this is about. I don’t like mysterious
gipsies hatching plots against me, and prophesying me into marriage.
You and I, Peter, will turn detectives, and ferret out the meaning of
these things. Therefore, Peter, as a first step we will go into the
village and listen to public opinion concerning Dr. Merle and his
daughter. The audience is at an end, you rascal, so sit down.”

Peter dropped like a shot and yawned. He did not understand a word of
this long speech. How could he? There was not a word about bones in it
from beginning to end. When Dan put on his cap and picked up his
stick, the actions were more intelligible to Peter than the previous
words, and he whirled frantically before Dan in token of his delight
at the prospect of a walk. Simon only tossed his head and looked. He
had been down to the seashore that morning, and took no interest in
anything save grass. Having thus ascertained the feelings of his
four-footed friends, Dan cast a farewell glance around to see that
everything was in good order, and strode off, followed by the barking
terrier.

All that afternoon Dan pottered about the village. He talked to stray
labourers of crops and weather, artfully leading the conversation
round to the gentry question; he gossiped with voluble women, on the
plea of seeking a laundress for his linen, and learned indirectly
their opinion of the doctor. It did not appear to be a very high one.

“Th’ ould doctor bean’t nowt but a sleepy-head,” they said
contemptuously. “‘A ain’t vit vur nowt. ‘A gits oop, ‘a lies down–aw
ain’t niver no good. That ‘a bean’t!”

From which speeches Dan gathered that Dr. Merle was not highly prized
as a physician in Farbis. He stayed in his dismal house and soddened
himself with laudanum. His patients resented the little interest he
took in them, and proclaimed their views boisterously in broad rural
dialect. It took all Dan’s time to fathom the meaning of some of their
words.

In process of time he drifted into the Red Deer, more to quench his
thirst than for any other reason, but found an unexpected mine of
information in the landlord. That worthy brought him a tankard of ale
with a jolly smile, and when Dan mentioned casually that he had been
to see the doctor, burst out with unlimited information.

“‘A has nowt, zur,” said the host; “‘a stuck-up un, ‘a be.”

“Is he a good doctor?”

“Aw yis! ‘A be mazing clivir, but thur bean’t no use fur un; folk
doan’t git ill here. Look at t’ doctor’s lass, measter. She be vine
an’ strong.”

“Yes; a splendid-looking girl! Is she not a great friend of Miss
Linisfarne?”

The landlord nodded, and went into a long story about Miss
Linisfarne’s kindness to Meg. How Dr. Merle had neglected his daughter
to shut himself up in seclusion, and how the lady at the Court had
taken upon herself to look after the neglected girl. Mr. Jarner, the
parson, was also mentioned by the host as one who had interested
himself in the matter. He knew more about the gentry than any one
else, and had been rector of the place for over a quarter of a
century.

Dan cut short the landlord’s eloquence by asking where he could see
Mr. Jarner and have a chat with him. He was directed to the vicarage,
which was on the other side of the church, and, thinking that it would
be as well to have an intelligent person to talk with, went off to
seek the rustic divine.

Farbis Church and graveyard were much neglected. The long grass grew
nearly as high as the weather-stained tombs, and these in many cases
had fallen down. The tower was in a most dilapidated condition, and
though it had a clock and Chimes, the first had stopped and the second
were silent. An air of mournful decay pervaded the whole place, and it
could be easily seen that the present incumbent was not an energetic
man. Certainly the place itself was not conducive to work.

Not being pressed for time, Dan did not immediately repair to the
vicarage, but sauntered idly through the churchyard, reading the
quaint epitaphs, and watching the swallows wheeling round the hoary
tower. Judging from the grass-grown pathway from lych-gate to porch,
the Farbis folk did not come often to their devotions. The whole
village–its wretchedness, its somnolence, its isolation–was typified
by the shabby church. It was as though the place had gone to sleep in
the Middle Ages, and had not yet been wakened by the tumult of the
nineteenth century. Such infinite dreariness made Dan feel wretched.

Not being able to take Peter inside the church, he set him to guard
his cap in the porch by way of keeping him quiet. It may be here
stated that the front of this cap–which was not the one he usually
wore–was embroidered with the arms of Magdalen College, Oxford.
Considering his pretence of vagrancy, it was foolish for Dan to
decorate himself with so damning a piece of evidence regarding his
worldly position. Nevertheless, being busied with his new thoughts of
a possible conspiracy, he unthinkingly snatched up the cap before
leaving the dell, and thus set Peter to watch it at the church door.
Such negligence led to his undoing, and he recognized his carelessness
when it was too late.

Quite unaware of what awaited him, he examined the interior of the
church, and found it in a similar condition to the graveyard. There
were one or two painted windows and a finely carved reredos, but the
first were broken in several places, and the second was spoilt by the
damp. As usual, there was a collection of mouldy old tombs, which Dan,
for reasons of his own, examined with great interest. Among them he
found a crusading ancestor of Lord Ardleigh, carved in alabaster, with
crossed legs and a formidable sword. Beside him lay Joan, his wife,
with prayerful hands and monstrous head-dress. Faded scutcheons
bedecked the worn sides of the tomb, and a long Latin oration, which
nobody had the patience to decipher, set forth the many virtues of the
deceased pair. Poor dead folks, resting so quietly in that dreary
church, who thinks of you now?

Afterwards Dan explored the leper chapel near the high altar,
where those wretched pariahs heard the blessed mutter of the mass
through a chink in the wall. The lepers were gone now, as were
crusading lord and lady, and the high altar itself with its gold and
silver and tall candles. A plain deal table, covered with a red cloth,
whereon were set a cross and two bunches of flowers, did duty for the
communion-table. The Vicar of Farbis was evidently in sympathy with
Low Church doctrines, for there was no attempt at the sweeping or
cleansing or garnishing of the house of prayer.

From the contemplation of these melancholy things he was called to the
porch by the furious barking of dogs. He recognized Peter’s voice, and
knew that the terrier was in trouble. At the door he found a large
burly man thrashing two fox-terriers who had attacked Peter. It was a
task of some difficulty, for all three dogs were determined to enjoy
themselves. At length Dan picked up Peter by the scruff of the neck,
and, assisted by the burly man, kicked away the assailants. When quiet
was restored, the two had leisure to examine one another. At a glance
Dan recognized the parson, and saw with dismay that he was holding
that tell-tale cap with the Magdalen badge.

The Rev. Stephen Jarner was tall and ponderous, with a red face and
heavy jowl. To the waist he was a parson in orthodox collar, hat, and
coat, but his nether limbs, invested in breeches and high boots, had a
decidedly sporting appearance. He was a parson of the old school, fond
of a good glass of wine and a well-spread board, but still fonder of
dogs and horses. A hunting-crop was tucked under his arm, and the
fox-terriers, eyeing Peter in Dan’s embrace, sat at the feet of their
clerical master. Dan was much amused at the group.

“Here’s a character,” he thought. “A doctor addicted to opium, a pair
of gipsies, a recluse lady, a lovely huntress, and a sporting parson.
Decidedly I have got among queer folk!”

In his hand this remarkable-looking cleric still held Dan’s cap. He
looked at the badge and nodded his head towards the young man in a
friendly fashion.

“So you are a Magdalen man, sir,” said he, in a full rich voice. “I
too am of that college. _Et ego in Arcadia fui_. ‘Addison’s Walk’ by
the Cher is dear to me.”

Dan took his cap with a smile. The badge had unmasked him as an
Oxonian, so that he could no longer pass himself off as cheap-jack of
the caravan.

“Yes, I belonged to Magdalen, sir,” he owned up, stepping out of the
porch and covering his head. “Had you not seen this, I would not tell
you so much. I am in a different walk of life at present, Mr. Jarner,
and my name is Dan.”

The clergyman looked at him with a slightly satirical expression on
his full lips, and nodded. He quite understood the significance of the
speech.

“Keep your secret, friend Dan. I too have heard the chimes at
midnight. You are at a frolicsome age, and why should not a man play
the fool when the blood sings in his veins? But within reason–within
reason.”

“Pagan sentiments, Mr. Jarner.”

“Pish, my dear sir! The sentiments of every healthy-minded man. So you
are Dan? I have heard of you and of your caravan in the dell. Come
across and crack a bottle with me.”

“What! port at four o’clock in the afternoon, and after the Red Deer
ale? Do you take me for a four-bottle man, sir?”

Jarner cracked his whip at the dogs, who all three set up a barking
chorus. Bent upon offering hospitality, he was not to be daunted by
the first refusal.

“Then I’ll give you good ale. That won’t hurt you. By St. Beorl who
built this church, I must have a chat with you. For thirty years I
have been buried here, and not once have I met with a student of my
old college. This day shall be marked with a white stone. That is
Horace, sir, but I won’t give you the Latin of it, as my classics,
like my manners, have become somewhat rusty.”

Considerably diverted by the speech of this hospitable divine, Dan
accepted the invitation, and they walked across to the vicarage.
The door was wide open, and, followed by the dogs (who evidently had
the right of entry), Jarner led his guest into a snug little room
filled with old-fashioned furniture. There was a wide casement, in
the depths of which was a parlour seat. The fireplace was large and
old-fashioned, the shelves round the walls were filled with books in a
more or less tattered condition, and there was a mahogany table ringed
over with the bottoms of tumblers. Evidently that table had seen some
hard drinking in the long winter nights. Over all there was a jovial
air of untidy hospitality. Even before he spoke, Dan guessed that his
new friend was unmarried. That parlour was eloquent of the absence of
the female element at the vicarage.

“Bachelor Hall, sir,” said the parson, casting hat and hunting-crop
into a corner. “Sit in that chair by the window. It is the most
comfortable, and is only permitted to be used by favoured guests.”

“And why am I thus favoured?” replied Dan, dropping into a chair.

“Because you are a nursling of Magdalen, sir,” thundered the divine,
with a laugh on his jolly red face. “There is Alma Mater herself over
the fireplace–the quadrangle, and the tower askew. Ah me!” continued
he, shaking his head pensively at the picture, “what days those were
thirty years ago! Where are all the good fellows with whom I consorted
in the time when Plancus was consul, and still—- But here comes the
ale, Dan! Let me froth you a tankard, and we’ll drink to the old
college, sir, and to our better acquaintance.”

Not feeling equal to the task of emptying the silver pot presented to
him, Dan bravely drank half, but Jarner did not set down his tankard
till it was empty. Then he sighed, thumped himself with vigour, and
nodded towards the mantelpiece.

“Try a churchwarden,” said he, persuasively.

“Thank you, sir, I’ll stick to my briar,” answered Dan; and each
having chosen his pipe, they smoked amicably together.

“Briars smoke sweet,” observed the former, using his little finger as
a stopper, “but to my mind they don’t come up to a churchwarden. I
always smoke churchwardens, for,” he added, with a twinkle in his
little eyes, “being a clergyman, it is but right that I should affect
a pipe with a clerical name.”

As in duty bound, Dan laughed at the old gentleman’s joke, and then
began to put cautious questions with a view to finding out all he
could about Meg and her father. Jarner was very communicative, and
replied frankly. The discovery that Dan was an Oxonian like himself
warmed his heart towards the young fellow, and he did not regard him
quite in the light of a stranger, though he knew nothing about him.
Dan might have been an unconscionable scamp, and Jarner would not have
seen through him. He was a simple, kindly old fellow, in spite of his
strong ale and terriers and bluster. See, then, what freemasonry there
is in Oxonianism. A coined word is necessary here, as no other can
adequately describe the parson’s attitude towards the tramp.

“You have lived here for thirty years, Mr. Jarner?”

“For thirty years, sir. I have charge of three parishes within a
radius of twenty miles, and ride over to preach in one of them every
second and third Sunday; the first I keep for Farbis.”

“How do the people live in this outlandish place?”

“By weaving. Have you not seen the looms at work in the cottages?”

“Well, yes; but I did not—-”

“See how inobservant is youth!” laughed Jarner, filling himself
another tankard. “Don’t be alarmed at my thirst, young man. I have
been in the saddle for five hours to-day, over the hills at Silkon,
where I met a friend of yours.”

“Indeed! I didn’t know I had friends here.”

“Pooh! What about Tinker Tim? He is a warm admirer of you, sir, and
thinks you a pretty light-weight fighter. Tim gave me a description of
your battle in the dell. It was glorious–glorious! I should like to
have been present.”

“Come to my camp, then, and I’ll put on the gloves with you.”

“Not me–not me!” said Parson Jarner, wagging his large head. “Too
old; and besides, I’m a vicar–must respect the cloth, young man!”

“Well, to continue about Farbis. How do they get their bales of cloth
away?”

“There’s a road over the hills by Farbis Court. The weavers here are a
poor lot, and an infernally irreligious set. God forgive me for
swearing!”

“They seem healthy enough.”

“Oh yes 1 The air is good. They don’t bother the doctor much.”

“Dr. Merle! I saw him the other day.”

Jarner faced round suddenly with a grave look on his face.

“What do you think of him?” he asked doubtfully.

“I think it is a pity he doesn’t take example by De Quincey, and put
away that decanter.”

“Oh, you saw that, did you? You have sharp eyes, young man. Yes, yes!
it’s a great pity. I’ve tried to break him off that laudanum-drinking,
but it’s no use; the man’s a slave to the vice. I’ve straightened him
out a dozen times, and he always doubles up again. Lord forbid that I
should speak ill of my fellow-creatures, but Richard Merle’s a poor
white mouse of a creature!”

“It is more than his daughter is.”

“Ta, ta! Hey! Have you met her?”

“Two or three days ago.”

“She is a fine girl, sir. As honest and simple as can be. I am a
hardened old bachelor, Dan, but my heart aches for the future of that
poor creature.”

“Her father—-”

“Pooh, pooh! Tush! Don’t talk to me, sir. He is worse than useless.
The girl would have been ruined body and soul had she trusted to his
fatherly care. I can say, without praising myself and Miss Linisfarne,
that we have done our best for her. She is a noble creature, sir,”
continued the parson, vehemently, “and should be the mother of brave
men and chaste women. But there, there! in this waste corner of the
earth who is there to mate with her?”

He sighed and finished his beer, then continued his speech after such
pause.

“I have often thought of asking Miss Linisfarne to take the lass to
London and aid her to—-”

“No, no!” interrupted Dan, smartly, “do not let her go to town. A
season would spoil her. It would destroy her charm of simplicity and
candour. Believe me, my dear Mr. Jarner, it is best to let this
woodland flower bloom here, and not to thrust it into the hothouse of
an artificial civilization.”

“You take a great interest in the young lady, sir,” said Jarner,
dryly.

“Do you think so, sir? It is pure philanthropy on my part, I assure
you.”

Jarner looked steadily at him, but Dan met his eyes with so frank a
face that he seemed satisfied of the young man’s intentions.
Nevertheless he tapped his breast meaningly.

“Don’t lose that, sir! Take care–take care!”

“If you mean my heart, Mr. Jarner, there is no danger of my being so
foolish. I can look after myself, and so can she. But to speak in a
more general way–do you know if Dr. Merle has any dealings with Tim
the Tinker?”

“No, I can’t say that I do. Why do you couple their names together,
young man?”

Dan meditated a few moments before replying. He was not prepared to
communicate his suspicions to Jarner until he knew more about him.
Unlike the confiding country divine, this haunter of cities was more
cautious in unfolding himself to a new acquaintance.

“I cannot answer your question at present, Mr. Jarner,” he said at
length, with some hesitancy; “but if you will do me the honour to
visit my camp, I will explain myself, and ask your opinion on a
certain matter.”

“Does it concern Meg?” asked Jarner, rendered serious by this speech.

“Yes; it concerns Meg and–myself. No! pray don’t ask me if I am in
love with her. To-morrow I will tell you all.”

“At what hour shall I come?”

“Say at noon. I am generally alone at that hour.”

Jarner accepted the invitation, and shook hands with his strange
guest. Politeness forbade him to ask questions, else he might have
done so. The whole tone of Dan’s conversation was so mysterious that
the simple gentleman was greatly puzzled and disturbed.

The house built on the side of the hill was a dreary-looking place,
standing in a park of no very great extent. Gloomy pine-woods rose
above it, and the grounds appertaining to the mansion stretched below
in a gentle slope towards the village. So sheltered was the park from
sea-winds by reason of the depression of the ground, that therein
flourished quite a forest in wild luxuriance. Oak, and sycamore, and
beech, and elm, all lifted their giant boughs in the genial
atmosphere, and formed a wood round the Court similar to that said to
have environed the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. It was almost as
impenetrable, and quite as wild in growth.

Here the fecundation of Nature went on incessantly, unrestrained by
the hand of man. Nothing was kept within bounds; so, untended and
untouched, the forest–for, though of limited extent, it could be
called by no other name–relapsed into its wild state. The trees
crowded so thickly together that they almost excluded the sunlight.
Parasites grew unchecked round the aged boles; wan grasses, uncoloured
by the sun, sprang high and thick; while groves of saplings made the
wood well-nigh impassable. Wild creatures dwelt in the undergrowth,
undisturbed by sportsman or poacher, and overhead flocks of birds made
the forest musical from sunrise to sunset. Here and there spread
stagnant pools of water, choked with weeds, and almost hidden by
broad-leaved lilies. And there were winding paths, overgrown with moss
and grass, blocked by fallen tree-trunks, and barred to the most
resolute pioneer by brushwood and tangled briars. Desolation ruled
supreme throughout the deserted domain.

From the rusty iron gates at the termination of the avenue up to the
house itself stretched this jungle, and egress could only be obtained
by means of the carriage-drive, which was in fairly good repair.
Woods, and lawns, and flowerbeds, and paths were allowed to go to rack
and ruin. For half a century Nature had done as she liked, with the
result that Farbis Park became a wilderness. Only in tropical Africa
could such savagery be paralleled.

Nor was the house much better as regards care. Its long façade of red
brick was reared on a substructure of terraces, whence wide flights of
steps led downward to neglected lawn and gloomy forest. The trees had
almost pushed their way to the balustrade of the terrace, and looked
as though anxious to stifle the mansion in their close embrace. There
were ranges of staring windows, turrets and gables and towers, sloping
roofs and twisted chimney-stacks. Moss grew in the chinks of the
bricks, many of the windows were broken, and here and there a crazy
shutter swung noisily by one hinge. The coat of arms over the porch
was mouldering and defaced; the steps leading to the iron-bound door
were broken and timeworn. But that smoke issued from the chimneys in
the daytime, and that lights gleamed from the windows by night, one
would have deemed the great mansion uninhabited. Yet Miss Linisfarne
dwelt therein. But her existence was one of more than conventual
seclusion, and she herself decayed with the decaying woods and house.

Long since had the Farbis folk ceased to wonder who she was, and why
she had buried herself in so lonely a dwelling. Many of the villagers
remembered that stormy December day, more than twenty years ago, when
a travelling carriage crossed the moors, and brought a handsome young
woman to that ill-omened house. From the time she arrived at Farbis,
Miss Linisfarne had never left it again, but dwelt at the Court in
solitary state, unfriended, almost unvisited. Parson Jarner and Meg
were alone permitted to cross her threshold. No villager was invited
to the kitchen of Farbis Court, nor did the servants mix with those
who dwelt without the gates. It was surmised that there was some
mystery connected with the persistent seclusion of Miss Linisfarne,
but no one was clever enough to guess what the mystery might be. The
general opinion was that the tenant of the Court had committed a
crime, and had of her own free will condemned herself to a solitary
life in expiation thereof. But this was a mere rumour, and unsupported
by facts.

If, as it was hinted, Parson Jarner knew the reason for this
penitential life, never by word, or deed, or look did he reveal such
unholy knowledge. No Sphinx could be more secretive than this simple
divine when it so pleased him, therefore the villagers had little
chance of having their curiosity gratified in that direction. The
vicar paid frequent visits to the recluse, and always returned
therefrom with a meditative air and frowning brow. His flock wondered
at this, wondered at Miss Linisfarne’s seclusion, wondered at
everything connected with the Court, till after the lapse of a decade
the novelty of the thing wore itself out, and they ceased wondering
altogether. Yet they were constantly on the watch for the happening of
some untoward event, and hoped, not without reason, to some day know
the truth.

Miss Linisfarne, being an invalid, was usually confined to one
apartment–a great drawing-room which overlooked the terrace. During
the early years of her exile–for so she termed it–she had enjoyed
perfect health, and then drove frequently through the village on her
way up the winding road to the moors. She had even strolled about the
park, in those places where the savage wildness of the place permitted
her to walk with comparative ease. Now all was changed. She never went
beyond the gates, nor did she walk in the grounds, but when not lying
on her couch, paced languidly up and down the terrace, or, if the
weather was bad, exercised her feeble limbs in the picture-gallery.
Can you conceive a more pitiful picture than that of this lonely
figure wandering through the corridors, and galleries, and vast rooms
of this desolate house?

With such a tenant dwelling amid such surroundings, it was little to
be wondered at that the Court gained the reputation of being haunted.
Miss Linisfarne was reported to be wealthy, but not all the treasures
of Solomon would have tempted a Farbis man to penetrate the mansion
after dark. And this same superstition preserved the Court from the
intrusion of the villagers either as visitors, beggars, or burglars.
They dreaded even to pass the gates after dusk, and with fertile
imagination began to weave strange stories of the lonely lady in the
lonely house. Parson Jarner discouraged these tales, and reproved the
tellers, but notwithstanding his prohibition, Farbis folk still held
to their opinions. They declared that the Court was haunted, that Miss
Linisfarne was a witch, that orgies were held in the empty rooms at
midnight, and that cries of tortured women and of dying men could be
heard at night. With such fancies did the villagers beguile the winter
evenings over their fires. Superstition was strangely ingrained in the
nature of the Farbis folk, and all Parson Jarner’s arguments failed to
eradicate their deeply rooted beliefs.

The drawing-room, wherein Miss Linisfarne was generally to be found,
was a vast apartment in the right-hand corner of the house. Eight
French windows opened on to the front terrace, and five oriels at the
side overlooked a sea of green, for here the forest rolled its leafy
waves up to the very walls of the mansion. This apartment possessed a
polished floor, which was strewn with bright-hued mats from the looms
of Ispahan. Scattered sparsely through the room were chairs with
cushions of faded satin, oval tables of rosewood and walnut, laden
with books long since out of print; also with strange carvings in
ivory by Chinese artificers, pots of dried rose-leaves, and
glass-shaded wax flowers. Sofas of classical shape, designed during
the first Empire of France, were stiffly set against the walls.
Overhead the oval roof was frescoed with paintings of mythological
subjects, and on the walls hung dark oil pictures and gilt-framed
mirrors. Faded curtains draped the windows, and so excluded the light
that the vast room was constantly filled with shadows. Over all lay
the grey dust undisturbed for years. It was an eerie-looking place,
and there was something terrifying about the large hollow empty space.
Ghosts only could fitly inhabit its gloom and desolation.

Near one of the oriel windows Miss Linisfarne lay on her couch. Here
there was an attempt at comfort. A square of carpet faced the sofa,
and was met at its outer borders by a gaudy Japanese screen, which
converted the spot into a tiny room. A work-table stood close at hand,
and near it an armchair was placed, while a revolving bookcase gave a
touch of modernity to the nook. Here, in this oasis of comfort, Miss
Linisfarne worked, and read, and fretted, and thought. It was at once
her home and her prison.

At times her hands would fall idly on her lap, and her eyes would
wander from book or work to gaze out of the oriel at the green ocean
of trees which isolated her dwelling. God alone knows what were her
thoughts during those melancholy musings. Of nothing bright, you may
be sure, for Mariana in her Moated Grange was less solitary than this
woman with the sad eyes. A cloud of mystery, of dread, of horror, hung
over the house and its occupant. No wonder the superstitious villagers
avoided the unholy spot. House and women were accursed.

Look at her as she lies there, with the light of the afternoon on her
countenance. Can you not see how she has suffered–how mental torture
has worn her face thin; how it has imprinted lines upon her brow,
and laced her golden hair with threads of grey? She can count but
forty-seven years, and yet she is an aged woman; for grief is even more
powerful to destroy than time. The light has long since left those
mournful eyes, the roses have long since faded from those worn cheeks,
and the mouth is now set in fretful lines which were not there in
early days. The features alone retain their beauty. Her straight nose,
curved lips, firmly moulded chin, and high forehead are as if carved
in ivory, for long seclusion from fresh air and tinting sunlight has
imparted a yellowish hue to the skin. And the countless wrinkles round
the mouth, under the eyes, and across the forehead, tell their own
tale of mental agonies, of tearful hours, of sleepless nights. Sorrow
had set her unmistakable seal on the face, and had rendered it haggard
before its time. Wan countenance, inert figure, listless hands, and
hopeless looks–a mournful spectacle this of sadness and despair.

Yet she was still careful of her dress. No fault could be found with
the grey silk tea-gown, adorned with lace at wrists and throat, or
with the dainty slipper on the slender foot. Grey as was her hair, yet
the undying coquetry of the feminine nature impelled her to coil it
smoothly, and scatter it in crisp curls. When her hands moved, diamond
rings glittered on the fingers, and her lean wrists were encircled
with costly bracelets. She was aged before her time, she was lonely,
she was filled with despair; but the woman in her still bade her tire
her head, deck herself with gems, clothe herself in rich garments, and
make the most of what was left to her.

Meg sat in the armchair close to the couch. A greater contrast than
the exuberant vitality of this girl, beside the etiolated looks of the
elder woman, can scarcely be imagined. Bright eyes, rosy cheeks,
restless hands–there was life in every movement; while Miss
Linisfarne, listless and weary, looked as though the blood were
stagnant in her veins. The girl still wore her rough serge dress, and
her heavily shod feet looked clumsy beside the dainty slimness of Miss
Linisfarne’s slippers. Her hair was roughened by the wind, her hands
were brown and scarred, and she spoke in a clear hearty voice, which
contrasted strongly with the faint tones of her hostess. She brought
into the room a breath of the woodlands, an odour of earth, of pine,
of salt wave, and breezy down. Her very presence seemed to invigorate
the pale invalid, who looked at her so kindly. As Antæus drew vigour
from his parent earth, so did Miss Linisfarne draw fresh vitality from
the animal healthfulness of her visitor.

They were talking together on an interesting subject, and as the
conversation went on, a flush crept into the cheeks of the elder
woman, her eyes grew brighter, and her lips parted in a faint smile.
The vitality diffused by Meg stirred the blood in her veins, and
quickened the wan life to a semblance of health. So might Eurydice
have regained health and life and sprightliness with every step she
took from the kingdom of the dead.

Continue Reading

DIANA OF FARBIS

“‘And there were giants on the earth in those days,'” quoth Dan,
eyeing the mighty bulk of his visitor. “Can you box, my friend?”

“Try me,” said Tinker Tim, putting up his fists.

Here was a polite reception to give a guest. It is not the custom in
civilized society for the host to invite the stranger within his gates
to a bout of fisticuffs. But this was not polite society, and Dan had
retrograded to primevalism. In the days of old, when fighting was hand
to hand, and not conducted at long range, men usually commenced their
friendships by thrashing one another. Robin Hood is an excellent
example of this. In Merry Sherwood he beat the stranger, or the
stranger beat him, either with fists or at quarter-staff, and
afterwards the combatants fraternized. Each wished to see if the other
was a man, before admitting him to his friendship. Dan was of this way
of thinking, and eyed his opponent like a fighting-cock.

If there was one thing he loved, it was a bout with the gloves, and
Tim was apparently of the same mind. They were quite amicable, and
disposed to be friendly with each other, but the friendship had to be
cemented with blows and blood. The scent of battle–of friendly
battle, to couple incongruous terms–was in the air. Dan was of goodly
stature, and ready with his fists. He prided himself on his long reach
of arm and quickness of eye. In the parts from which he came, few men
cared to stand up to him, for he had been victorious times without
number. His victories were so many and so easy that he longed to meet
a dogged foe who could hold his own; therefore his mouth watered when
he saw the thews and fists of his guest. They were eloquent of a
prolonged battle, and Dan promised himself a happy morning.

Tim was a son of Anak, six and a half feet high, and big in
proportion. Not an ounce of superfluous flesh on his bones; nothing
but tanned hide and swelling muscle. His face was burnt brown by the
sun and reddened by the wind; and he wore a bushy black beard, which
was slightly streaked with grey. His bold black eyes looked defiance,
while the gold rings which adorned his ears added to his already
barbaric appearance. A swarthy malcontent he seemed at first sight, a
cut-throat of the Spanish main, a piratical desperado; yet, on a
closer inspection, his good-humoured smile did away with such
bloodthirsty appearances. He, too, counted his victories by the score,
and sighed, like Alexander, for fresh worlds or men to conquer. Dan
could not have given him a better welcome than that invitation to
battle, and his eye sparkled with pleasure at the prospect. Each saw
that the other was a man, and wished to decide which was the better. A
fit of Berserk fury was on them both.

“Come on, rye,” said Tim, eager for the fray. “I’ll fight you for a
fi’-pun note.”

“I cannot wager so large an amount,” replied Dan, gravely. “I am a
poor man.”

Tim glanced at the caravan, and laughed hoarsely. He had his own
opinion on the matter, or else had taken his cue from Mother Jericho.
However, he was too bent on fighting to argue, and his face grew
impatient as he poised himself lightly in an attitude of defence with
scientifically placed fists.

“Ain’t you goin’ to put ’em up?” said he, sharply.

“Not without the gloves, friend. I’ve no notion of letting those
sledge-hammer fists of yours spoil my beauty.”

“Ho! Women like to see men mashed a bit. Them’s the kind they love
best.”

“That may be! Women are all hero-worshippers. All the same, I wish my
face to remain as it is. A broken nose may be heroic, but it isn’t
pleasing to the eye.”

And with such speech he disappeared into the caravan, whence he
emerged with the boxing-gloves. Throwing a pair of these to Tim, he
put on his own, and in a minute or so the two men were warily circling
round one another. Peter was the only spectator of this famous fight,
and he encouraged the combatants with sharp barks when the blows fell
unusually thick.

“Here is Lavengro again,” thought Dan, aiming a blow at the jaw of his
opponent. “I have dropped across the Flaming Tinman.”

And Lavengro alone could have fully described that Homeric contest.
There was no hesitancy or half-heartedness about it. They pounded one
another whenever they got the chance, and sent the blows straight from
the shoulder. Thrice was Dan toppled over like a ninepin, and twice
did Tim measure his length on the grassy sward. If one had the greater
weight, the other had the quicker eye. Tim’s leg-of-mutton fists did
terrific damage when they got home on Dan’s body, but for the most
part they descended innocuously, so dexterously did the latter guard.
At first they smiled, but soon their blood warmed and their faces set.
Strength and agility were fairly matched, so that though the battle
raged for close on an hour, each managed to hold his own. Dan could
make no impression on the elephantine frame of Tim, and the tinker
grew weary of trying to hit a flash of lightning in the person of the
vagrant. It was as pretty a sight as a man might see in a day’s walk,
but so equal were both boxers that the contest seemed likely to last
till sunset. The account of such a combat should roll off the tongue
in blank verse or leaping hexameter, and be chanted by some noble
minstrel. Nothing meaner can suffice! It is impossible to play an
oratorio on a penny whistle.

At length, when Dan had a bleeding nose and Tim a swelling eye, they
threw down their gloves by mutual consent and declared it a drawn
battle. On such result they shook hands like the manly pair they were,
and Tim vented his emotion in a mighty oath which here need only be
paraphrased.

“By the ghost of Black Ben the Bruiser,” said he, clapping his
friendly antagonist on the shoulder, “you’re a man, you are! None
other shall have her, I swear.”

“Have whom?” asked Dan, bathing his crimsoned nose in the bucket.

“Never you mind, rye,” replied Tim, ambiguously; “that’s neither here
nor there. It might be Mother Jericho, for all you know.”

Not particularly attentive to this speech, Dan went on splashing up
the ice-cold water; and Tim, with his black beard clutched in one
begrimed hand, sat looking steadily at him. The vagrant seemed to find
favour in his eyes, for during his scrutiny he grunted once or twice
as though satisfied. It was evidently something more than personal
prowess that recommended Dan to the gipsy giant. What it was must
remain locked up in Tim’s brain for the present.

“Why didn’t Mother Jericho come with you, Tim?”

“She’s got the rheumatism, rye, and sits in her tent squeaking like a
trapped rabbit. ‘Twas she who told me to look ye up.”

“Wanted to know the result of her prophecy, I suppose?”

“Ay, ay! She told your fortune, did she? A good un for charming brass
out of pockets, she is. Maybe she promised ye a wench, lad?”

“That she did. Two wenches! I met one this morning.”

“Did ye, now? And where, my brave rye?”

“‘Joy comes up through the Gates of Dawn,'” hummed Dan, wiping his
face.

This mystical utterance was of course unintelligible to Tim, who
looked up as though about to demand an explanation; but on second
thoughts he threw himself down for a rest. He was not so young as he
had been, and the violent exercise of the last sixty minutes had told
slightly on his iron frame.

“That was a good un, rye,” said he, referring to the combat; “but
you’re too much of the eel for me. It ain’t at sixty years that a man
should mash round after a slippery chap like you.”

“Are you sixty years of age?” exclaimed Dan; and as Tim nodded, he
continued, “Well, you don’t look it, my man.”

“Open air and exercise, plain fare and daily change,” replied Tim,
glibly running off his lists of arts for circumventing the enemy Time;
“but I’m beginning to get on, brother. There’s a hole as I’ll fall
into afore long. Yet there’s work to be done and wrongs to be righted
afore I am tripped up. When all’s square, I’ll tumble into Mother
Earth’s arms with the rest.”

Engaged in getting victuals from the caravan, Dan did not at once
comment on this mournful speech. When he did speak, his remark was
more practical than sympathetic.

“No doubt you’re hungry after that tussle, Tim.”

“Ay, and thirsty. What have you to drink?”

“Bottled beer. Here! don’t spoil your dinner by smoking.”

Tim rapped the ashes out of his pipe, and with an assenting grin
restored it to his pocket. Then he fell to caressing Peter.

“A fine leetle dawg, squire!”

“Pedigree dog! Kennel Club,” replied Dan, curtly.

“Ho, ho!” laughed the tinker, hoarsely, “and you call yourself a
crocus! My Sam! You’re a gentleman, you are–a great gentleman.”

“Pish! Do I look like a great gentleman in these rags?”

“Ay, that you do, and burn him who says nay,” replied Tim,
emphatically. Whereat Dan laughed in a somewhat embarrassed fashion,
and by way of changing the subject, intimated that the meal was ready.

A meal he called it–by Vesta, goddess of the spit, it was a lordly
banquet to which they sat down. Cold beef and pickles, bottled beer
and cheese, with a plentiful supply of fresh bread. Can you ask
anything better than to eat such victuals in the open air on a warm
summer day, with voices of bird and bee, and sigh of wind, and roar of
ocean, around? To feed in an airless dining-room were less conducive
to appetite.

The pair ate as they had fought, with a will, and the fragments of the
feast would scarcely have filled one basket, let alone a dozen. Tim
did most of the talking, and Dan could not help noticing that his
speech was much more refined than was his appearance. This incongruity
he touched on during the progress of the meal.

“Where did you learn to speak so Well, Tim?”

“Do I speak well, rye?” demanded the tinker, with marked surprise.
“Well, ye see, I’m a Romany, I am, and we generally speak better
than the lower orders of your natives. We have our own tongue, you
know–the black language–and speak that among ourselves. But I’ve
been among the Gorgios, rye, in my time, and maybe have picked up
their way of talking.”

“Were you always a tinker?”

“Ay! And my father and grandfather before me! We Romany follow the
trades of our ancestors, and have our pride, though you Gentiles think
us beasts of the field. But never mind my chatter, rye! I don’t ask to
know your business, so let mine be.”

After the fight, in which he had proved himself capable of holding his
own, Dan could afford to let this reproof pass without the imputation
of cowardice, so merely laughed at Tim’s asperity, and lighted his
pipe. The tinker, restored to good humour by this silent acquiescence,
did the same, and the pair were soon puffing amicably together. There
is no peacemaker like tobacco.

“Who is t’ doctor’s lass, Tim?” asked Dan, suddenly.

“Ho, ho! Have you run her to earth, rye? Isn’t she a beauty?–eyes
like stars, and hair like midnight!”

“You know her, then?”

“Every one for ten miles round knows her. She’s out on the moors from
dawn till sunset. A born Romany she is, though coming of Gorgio stock.
And where did you clap eyes on her, rye?”

“Coming up through the Gates of Dawn at sunrise.”

“Ay! Been swimming, I guess!”

“Can she swim?”

“Like an otter. And ride, and shoot, and fish, and tramp her thirty
miles a day.”

“Quite a Diana!”

“I don’t know about no Diana,” retorted Tim, gruffly; “but she’s a
clipper, and no mistake. Her fist is as ready as her tongue.”

“Borrow’s Isopel in the flesh!” thought Dan, who listened eagerly to
this account of his unknown nymph. “And what is the name of this
Amazon?” he asked aloud.

“Meg Merle. She’s the daughter of Dr. Merle, who lives in Farbis
village. An old fool he is, who sleeps and dreams and shuts his eyes
to her beauty.”

“She is beautiful,” said Dan, reflectively; “very–very beautiful!”

Tim looked at him suspiciously and frowned. An unpleasant thought had
just crossed his mind.

“She’s as good as she’s beautiful, rye,” he growled, “and can look
after herself, I reckon. I shouldn’t like to be the man who put an
insult on her. I’d smash him,” added the tinker, bringing down his
huge fist with terrific force–“I’d smash him!”

“Is that meant for me?” asked Dan, sharply, noting the suspicious look
in the eyes of his guest.

“Them as the cap fits can wear it, rye! You’re a gentleman, though you
don’t choose to call yourself one, and gentlemen think country girls
fine game; so—-”

“That’s quite sufficient, my friend,” cried the vagrant. “I know what
you are about to say. Don’t bellow out your warning. Gentleman or no
gentleman, she has no need to fear me.”

Tim eyed him narrowly, and then, rolling over, gripped Dan’s hand in
his own huge paw. It was his way of apologizing for his unjust
suspicions.

“I trust ye! I trust ye! A man who can use his mauleys like you ain’t
a cur to play tricks on women. If I’ve offended you—-”

“You haven’t offended me, friend. Say no more about it.”

So speaking, he rose abruptly and walked to the other side of the
dell. Though he denied being angry, he was in reality rather indignant
at Tim’s imputation of libertinism. No man likes to be thought a
scoundrel, and Dan did not like it. Yet he saw that the warning was
dictated in a friendly spirit, so his wrath evaporated by the time he
returned to the fire. At once he began to speak on a different
subject, and Tim, seeing he was annoyed, gladly fell in with his
humour.

“I must come over to your camp, Tim. Where is it?”

“Down yonder on the edge of the moor. We’ll make ye as welcome as the
dawn.”

“I’ll come over, if only to find out why Mother Jericho coupled my
name with that of this girl.”

“It wasn’t Mother Jericho, but Fate,” said Tim, with great simplicity.
“If it be as she’s to be your wife, there’s no way out of it.”

“Pish! I’ll never set eyes on her again, Tim. I leave this place
to-morrow.”

“Not if Mother Jericho read your hand truly.”

There was no combating this obstinacy, as Tim was evidently a firm
believer in palmistry. As a gipsy, he could not in reason be
otherwise. Dan did not attempt to argue the matter, and after a few
more words they parted, as Tim had business on hand.

“I’m off tinkering to a village ten miles from here, rye,” said he;
“but don’t ‘ee forget to come to our camp when it suits you. I’ll be
proud to put on the gloves with you again.” And with this pugilistic
invitation he parted from his late antagonist.

Dan remained lying where he was, and bearing in mind Tim’s warning,
made up his mind to baffle Mother Jericho’s forecast if possible. But
Fate proved too strong for him. Before the week was out, he met again
with her whom he ironically christened the “Diana of Farbis.”

My Dear Jack,
Not wishing to cut myself off entirely from civilization, I write
to apprise you of my adventures while exploring England. I am in the
wilds–that is, in a lonely village surrounded by moors, and twenty
miles from the nearest town. A ragged boy on a ragged pony carries
letters to and fro from this place–Farbis it is called–twice a week.
Other communication with the world there is none, so you see I am
sufficiently isolated from the influences of the nineteenth century.

Of course you knew my intention of coming here, therefore you can
express no surprise at the name of the village. I have seen the Court
at a distance–a red-brick structure embosomed in pine woods–but as
yet I have not called on the old lady who lives there. I cannot very
well present myself in my character of a vagabond, as you may suppose;
and, moreover, this wild life is so delightful that I wish to keep to
myself as much as possible.

When I think of you dawdling in park and club, I pity you heartily. I,
too, have been in–shall I call it Arcady?–and suffered the ennui of
the season. Now I live, not in your artificial manner, but after a
hale and lusty fashion which precludes weariness. I rise with the
lark, and retire with the dicky birds. For the most part my bed is a
fur rug beside a roaring fire under the stars, and I am thoroughly
enjoying myself. This last statement appears extraordinary, but it is
precisely true.

I begin to think civilization is a mistake, and that a cultivated man
does not get so much out of his life as does the untutored savage.
This is a somewhat quixotic way of looking at things, I admit; but,
having tried both existences, I heartily pronounce in favour of the
latter. I have an appetite which Gargantua might envy; I feel the
blood rush through my veins; and I enjoy my life with a zest of which
you, puny club-lounger, can have no conception. Such primevalism suits
me, and I can well understand the fascination it has for so many men.
I protest, Jack, that I never truly appreciated the history of the
Scholar Gipsy till I read Arnold’s poem by the light of my camp-fire.
You get at the inmost soul of the thing from such circumstance.

And talking about gipsies, I am at present fraternizing with a tribe
of genuine vagrants who have pitched their ragged tents close at hand.
When I go there and see their Eastern looks, I feel as though some
genie had transported me to an encampment of Bedouins in Arabia. My
location is in a dell almost hidden by overhanging trees, but on
occasions I descend through the pine woods to see my brother-vagrants
on the edge of the moor. Though I do not know a word of Romany, and am
clearly an alien, they receive me most amicably, which says much for
their innate good breeding. Were I but a proficient in their tongue,
no doubt they would call me “brother” and “Romany Rye,” as their
grandparents did Borrow.

“Lavengro” is another work which can only be appreciated in these
surroundings. I have read it at least six times since leaving London,
but it never palls on my taste, never grows dull, and exercises the
same fascination as on the first perusal. Nay, more; Fate has taken
a leaf from that glorious book and bestowed on me an adventure or so
in the Borrovian style. My dell is a replica of that famous Dingle,
and–would you believe it?–I have done battle with an individual like
the Flaming Tinman. He also is a tinker and a bruiser, but here the
resemblance ends. He is not a brute, and has no doxy trailing at his
heels. Nor, alas! did he bring me an Isopel to whom I could teach–say
French, in place of Armenian. One can say many pretty things in
French, and the verbs lend themselves as readily to a philological
flirtation as does the more recondite language of Lavengro. But I have
no Isopel–at present.

I see you raise your eyebrows at those two last words. You are wrong
to suspect evil where none exists. It is true that there is a nymph of
these parts–but I had better tell you the beginning of the story. On
the night of my arrival in this dell, there came to me a red-cloaked
hag who prophesied like a veritable Deborah. Only one scrap of her
jargon do I recollect–that Joy should come up through the Gates of
Dawn. These same gates are two giant cliffs that stand sentinel at the
entrance to Farbis valley. I went down for a swim next morning, and
when the sun rose out of the ocean and poured his beams through this
chasm, it looked not unlike the Gates of the Day. The name is a
poetical one, and pretty. I can quite understand some mute inglorious
Milton having so christened this natural entrance. Here I saw Joy
coming up as predicted, in the person of a lovely young woman, whom I
at first took to be a mermaid, but the sight of whose bare feet
dispelled the illusion. I caught but a glimpse of her face, and—-

Now, don’t finish the sentence for me by saying I lost my heart. I did
no such thing; but I own that a very clear picture of this stray
Nereid is imprinted on my mind. I have not seen her since that
morning, so, to convince myself that she was of mortal mould, I asked
my friend the tinker about her. It seems she is the daughter of a Dr.
Merle, and leads a kind of huntress-life in the woods and on the
moors. Tim–my reality of the Flaming Tinman–waxed enthusiastic over
her knowledge of wood-lore, her perfect swimming, her straight
shooting, and various other accomplishments less feminine than
masculine. He concluded by warning me not to fall in love if I did not
mean to marry her. Did you ever hear such rubbish?–as though I were a
wolf in disguise, on the prowl for maidens of tender years! I doubt
whether I shall ever see her again, and I can only remember her as
Aurora coming up through the Gates of Dawn. No! I have not the
slightest wish to play the part of Tithonus, though I swear she is
lovely enough to snare a less inflammable person than myself.

To speak seriously, I should like to see this girl again. She must be
a very original creature to lead the life she does. I detest masculine
women. Yet this Diana of Farbis piques my curiosity. Still, I shall
not go out of my way to court Fate. If I meet Diana, it must be by
chance; but, as I leave here in three days, I doubt whether I shall
set eyes on her again. If I see her, if I fall in love with her, if I
marry her, what would you say? But then, you see, I say “if”! “Much
virtue in that little word,” as sage Touchstone remarks.

If you remember, we jested on the probability of my meeting with a
wife on my travels. What if this unknown nymph should prove to be my
fate in the marriage-market? Mother Jericho, the gipsy sybil, hinted
pretty strongly that she whom I met at the Gates of Dawn would become
my wife. Well, I met this Diana, this Rosalind, this Meg–not
Merrilies, but Merle–the doctor’s daughter. There is not the
slightest chance of my introducing her to you in such a _rôle_, I
assure you. I have no belief in palmistry, nor, for the matter of
that, in _mésalliances_.

But enough of women and love and guesses at the future. I must tell
you of my fight with the tinker–or, rather, I would tell you had I
the genius of Homer or the pen of Lavengro. I have neither. I fought a
battle with him out of sheer love of fighting. There was no ill will
on either side. We simply put on the gloves for a jest, and he was as
eager as I to see who was the better man. Neither of us won, so I
suppose we are about equal. Some fine day I’ll have another bout with
him, and see if I can’t come off victorious. Tim is no mean foe, I
assure you.

These are all the adventures I have to tell you at present, but you
must own that they are sufficiently exciting for these prosaic days.
If you yawn over this letter and scoff in your superfine way at my
Tinker, my Diana, my red-cloaked Witch, I will never again put pen to
paper for your pleasure. If my correspondence is not so exciting as
the romances of Dumas, it has at least the merit of being perfectly
true, which is more than you can say for the glibly uttered lies of a
thousand bragging Bobadils who have been to Africa and shot mythical
elephants.

In my next letter I will narrate my departure from this place, and my
touching farewells of my gipsy friends. After all, I am not sure that
I won’t travel with them. They are a fascinating lot, though rather in
want of soap and water. I may as well play my part of vagrant
thoroughly, though, I must confess, I have hitherto been a dismal
failure. Evidently I have not dressed the character properly, for the
most addle-headed yokel calls me “zur,” and looks expectant of a
shilling. I am trying to get up an accent, but it’s mighty difficult.
Greek, which the monks said was an invention of the devil, is easy
compared with this lingo.

You can write me a letter in reply to this, addressed to “Dan, Post
Office, Farbis,” and I’ll call for it. Dan is my travelling name. It
is, I think, admirably suited to me, and I like it better than the one
given to me by my godparents. Peter is quite well, and sends his love.
He is having a glorious time, and actually got within a yard of a
rabbit the other day. Simon is sleek and steady, and holds his tongue,
which is more than I can say of Peter. And now, my friend, I must
close this letter, for which you ought to be very grateful, as it is
written under great difficulties, with a bad pencil, in a bad light.
To keep up the spirit of the thing, I sign my travelling name, and
take leave of you so.

Dan,
Proprietor of caravan, horse, and dog, at present encamped at
Farbis.

P.S.–Should I meet with Diana, I will give you a full account of the
interview. What she said, what I said, how we met and how we parted,
and all the rest of it.

The determination of Dan to remain at Farbis did not result in any
immediate reward for such aiding of Destiny. Not a glimpse did he
obtain of Meg Merle, and he began to think her invisible, after the
fashion of the nameless nymph in “Lamia.” Sometimes he heard her
singing in the distance; but, though he followed the sound of her
voice, he never succeeded in casting eyes on her face. It might be
that she evaded a meeting, for while searching he caught at times the
echo of a laugh. Then her singing would recommence further off, and he
would again be lured onward, only to be disappointed anew. She flitted
through the pine wood like a spectre, and though her voice filled it
with music, she was as hidden as any bird. Were she viewless Echo
herself, she could not have been more invisible.

This feminine caprice angered Dan, and piqued his curiosity. He felt
as though he were in a fairy wood, searching for some princess,
spellbound by a powerful magician. Search as he might, the result was
always the same. After a time he waxed sulky, and stayed persistently
by his camp-fire, hoping that, if Destiny willed this phantom beauty
to be his wife, she would come in due time into his presence. Not that
he really believed in such fatalism, but the prophecy of Mother
Jericho was not without a certain influence on his mind. He was of a
somewhat impressionable nature, and at a rather impressionable age; so
it might be that the fulfilment of one prediction led him to attach
more value to the others than they deserved. Perhaps, also, he hoped
to baffle Fate by remaining snug in his dell; but if so, the hope was
vain, for in due course came the hour of fulfilment, and with it the
woman.

In the gipsy camp he found a new phase of life which amused him
exceedingly, and was not sparing of his company to the gentle Romany.
No more hospitable hosts could have been found than those ragged
wanderers who made the world their home. They invited him to dip into
their stew-pot, danced for him by the red firelight, sang wild gipsy
songs to him in unknown tongues, and, miracle of miracles, were
scrupulously honest in regard to his goods and chattels. Mother
Jericho and Tim in command of the tribe, were his firm friends, else
he might have found these vagrants less inclined to keep their
thievish fingers from his belongings. As it was, he lost not so much
as a stick, and began to think that the magpie propensities of the
gipsies had been somewhat overrated.

This wild life among wild people pleased him, and he found the days
pass rapidly in the indulging of such simple pleasures. Every morning
he rode Simon to the seashore for a matutinal swim, but never did he
meet Joy in the person of Meg “coming up through the Gates of Dawn,”
though he kept a sharp look-out for a recurrence of the phenomenon. On
his way back to camp he bought eggs and milk and bread, so as to lay
in a stock of provisions for the day. For the rest of the golden hours
he philandered about the woods in chase of that invisible mockery, or
paid an idle visit to gipsydom. When all other pleasures palled, he
sat smoking in the sunshine and read “Lavengro.” The book never failed
to enchain his fancy.

On the fourth day, so restless is human nature, he began to weary of
dell, of gipsies, of his own company, even of the book of books. A
spirit of wandering seized on him fiercely, and this nostalgia of the
road made him think seriously of once more putting Simon between the
shafts of his caravan. There was nothing to see in the slatternly
village, and comparatively little to interest him on the moors. Had he
brought a gun, he might have sought relief in shooting rabbits, of
which there were plenty about. But having no gun, he simply idled on
the heath and set Peter after the bunnies, a task to which the terrier
was by no means averse. But never by any chance did Peter catch a
rabbit.

It was during one of these excursions that he fell in again with Meg
Merle. Looking down on Farbis Vale, and wondering how its people
managed to support such isolation, he saw a rabbit scuttle past his
feet. The next moment there was a sharp report, and it rolled over
with a piteous squeal. Startled by the danger of the shot, and
congratulating himself that Peter was safe, Dan turned round sharply
to remonstrate with the reckless sportsman. The next moment, with cap
in hand, he was bowing before Diana of Farbis.

Evidently she had just returned from a shooting excursion, for
two dead rabbits hung at her girdle, and she advanced to pick
up the third. In a short dress of rough serge, a cap of the same
material, gaiters and boots, she presented a somewhat uncommon
appearance–rather masculine, to speak the truth, but on the whole not
unpleasing. Dan thought of Di Vernon, of Atalanta, of the Lady of the
Lake, and mythical Artemis, but in his heart acknowledged that none
could have been so fair as she whom he beheld.

She was in the spring of womanhood, a very Hebe for girlish grace, a
very type of incarnate purity. Her face was one of those provoking
countenances winch baffle description. Can one hope, by stringing
together items of grey eyes, red lips, rosy cheek, or pearly teeth, to
describe the looks of a fair woman? As soon expect poetry in an
auctioneer’s catalogue. The soul looking out of the clear eyes, the
piquant expression of the curved lip, the ineffable charm of virginal
purity,–who can hope to analyze such things? Not Dan, for one.
Without attempting to reduce the component parts of this loveliness to
dry facts, he simply stared spellbound at this fresh girlhood. Rosy as
the dawn, full of life as a young roe, instinct with vitality and
grace, she was like some beautiful wild creature of the woods. One
such as the Greeks feigned haunted springs as nymphs, and boles of
trees as dryads.

Their eyes met as he took off his cap, in homage at once to beauty and
purity and womanhood. Her looks charmed his eye and struck hard at his
heart, as to capture it in one dash. She spoke first, and turned the
dream to reality.

“What do ‘ee want messing about this yer plaace?” said the
dream-maiden with the broadest accent. “It be ‘mazing theng aw didn’t
shoot ‘ee.”

With great self-control Dan managed to suppress the exclamation of
surprise which arose involuntarily to his lips. That this fairy
princess, this invisible nymph, this phantom of delight, should speak
the coarse country dialect, came on him like a douche of cold water.
He gasped and stared, and opened his mouth without speaking. The
reaction was too terrible for mere speech.

“Whoy doan’t ‘ee saay summat?” demanded the girl, with a twinkle in
her eye. “Bean’t ‘ee—-”

“Don’t,” murmured Dan, faintly–“don’t speak. It’s too horrible!”

To his surprise she began to laugh gaily, and when her hilarity had
somewhat subsided, addressed him in the purest English with a
noticeably refined accent.

“You do not care for our country way of talking,” said she, putting a
rebellious curl in its place.

“Not from your lips,” he answered, after recovering from his second
shock. “Who cares to hear Venus mouth the Scythian tongue?”

She looked puzzled at the grandiloquence of this speech, and shifted
her gun to the other arm. Dan saw that she was surveying him with the
deepest interest, and, being a modest young man, blushed at such
persistent scrutiny.

“So you are the gentleman who fought with Tim?”

“I am the vagrant who fought with the tinker,” corrected Dan, smiling.
“Why do you call me gentleman?”

“Because Sir Alurde Breel was a gentleman, and you are just like him.”

“Indeed! I am much flattered by the comparison. Does Sir Alurde Breel
live in these parts?”

“He did, but died three hundred years ago,” replied Meg, dryly. “His
picture is in the gallery at Farbis Court. He is an ancestor of the
present Lord Ardleigh who owns the Court.”

“Does his lordship live there?”

“No! He is in London, I believe. Farbis Court is let to Miss
Linisfarne. But these things do not interest you. Please pick up that
rabbit.”

“You have had bad sport to-day,” said Dan, hastening to obey this
order.

“Very bad! Still I have three rabbits to take home. Would you like
one?”

“I adore rabbit stew, Miss Merle.”

“Then keep that last one I shot. I see you know my name.”

“I do! Tinker Tim told me all about you.”

Meg frowned and then laughed. Her mirth was very musical.

“Tim has a very long tongue, Mr. Dan.”

“Don’t call me Mr. Dan.”

“Then don’t you call me Miss Merle!” she said saucily.

“Everybody else does,” said Dan, unwilling to take advantage of such
innocence; “and you see I can hardly call you Meg. I am a stranger to
you.”

“Oh no! I have heard all about you from Tim and Mother Jericho.
Besides, you are so like Sir Alurde that I seem to know you quite
well.”

“A thousand blessings on the resemblance. I shall at once take
advantage of your kind permission. Do you go often to Farbis
Court–Meg?”

“Very often, Dan. Miss Linisfarne is very kind to me.”

“Oh, the lady who lives at the Court in place of its owner! Where is
Lord Ardleigh?”

“In London, I believe,” she said rather contemptuously. “I have no
doubt he is one of those finical fine gentlemen of whom Miss
Linisfarne talks.”

“That is not a flattering portrait,” said Dan, smiling.

“Probably not; but I have no doubt it is a true one.”

“Are you sure of that, Miss Merle?”

“I told you I am not Miss Merle, Mr. Dan.”

“Then address me as Dan, if you want me to be less formal.”

“Of course I shall call you Dan,” said she, opening her eyes in
feigned surprise. “What else should I call you?”

“Sir Alurde!”

Meg laughed at this sally. They were getting very friendly, much to
Dan’s delight. All at once, as though recollecting herself, she ceased
laughing and made as if to go. Dan stepped eagerly forward.

“Let me carry your gun, Meg.”

“What for? I can carry it myself,” she replied bluntly.

“I would rather relieve you of the burden.”

“Very well, Dan. Take those other two rabbits; but I’ll carry my own
gun, thank you. What queer ideas you have! Just like those of Miss
Linisfarne.”

“Does she carry your burdens?” asked Dan, gravely.

They were now walking down the winding road to the village.

“I should think not,” replied Meg, laughing at the bare idea. “But you
have the same manners as she has.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“Oh no! It is the truth. My father is not at all like you, nor is Mr.
Jarner, the vicar. I have never seen any one like you,” she finished,
looking at him with great interest.

“Not even Sir Alurde?”

“Oh, don’t talk any more of that picture, or I shall be sorry I spoke
of it.”

She was quite unsophisticated, and frankly uttered the thoughts that
came into her mind. Hence the flimsy dialogue which ensued between
them. Dan, unused to such candour, could not help feeling charmed at
the purity of the soul thus laid bare to his gaze.

“I saw you at the Gates of Dawn,” said she, with an evident desire to
change the subject. “Were you not very shocked at my appearing with
bare feet?”

“I was charmed.”

“Nonsense, Dan! It was an accident. I was swimming, and the tide
carried away my shoes and stockings. I did not mind it much till I saw
you. Then I felt dreadfully ashamed.”

“Why should you? ‘Beauty unadorned is adorned the most!'”

“You speak like Sir Charles Grandison,” said Meg, with a blush at the
compliment.

“Ah! you have read that book?”

“Yes. I like it very much. Miss Linisfarne has many old novels in her
library, but she will not let me read all of them.”

“It is best to rely on her taste,” said Dan, not relishing the idea of
this innocent reading Richardson’s contemporaries. “Are you fond of
reading?”

“Not very. I prefer fishing or shooting.”

“Who taught you to fish and shoot?”

“Tim and Parson Jarner. You don’t know him, do you? He’s a dear old
man, and so fond of dogs and horses.”

“Rather peculiar tastes for a clergyman.”

“Why so?”

She opened her eyes wide at his remark, and as he had no wish to be
the first to teach her worldly wisdom, Dan dismissed the subject.

“Never mind,” said he, ambiguously; “I’ll tell you another time. Don’t
you find it dull here?”

“Not at all! Why should I? There is always plenty to do. I swim and
ride, and fish and shoot. I go across the moors with Parson Jarner;
and I visit Miss Linisfarne two or three times a week. Besides, there
are many things in the pine woods to give me pleasure.”

“What kind of things?”

“Birds, and beasts, and spiders, and flowers. If you have sharp eyes,
you can see all manner of queer things.”

“A female Jefferies!” thought Dan; then aloud, “You must teach me your
woodcraft. I cannot see the marvels you describe.”

“How strange! Yes, I’ll teach you with pleasure. I shall come to your
dell and look at your caravan. Now we must part, Dan. My father
expects me home.”

“You won’t forget your promise,” said he, clasping her hand.

“No; I’ll come when I can. Goodbye, Dan.”

“Goodbye, Meg.”

And then they parted. But one, at least, looked forward eagerly to
their next meeting. Needless to say, that one was Dan.

Continue Reading

THE PLEASURES OF THE ROAD

The caravan rolled slowly along the dusty road with creakings and
groanings and jingling of horse-bells. It was painted a dark-green
colour, with white-curtained windows picked out in rose pink, and
bright red shafts and wheels. The corrugated iron roof showed no signs
of exposure to wind, rain, or sun, while the brasswork on door and
harness glittered like fine gold. Evidently it was quite new, and this
was its first journey into rural England. The sleek black animal that
drew the gaily tinted structure picked his steps leisurely; his driver
strolled alongside with sauntering step and whistling lip. A
complacent fox-terrier followed at his master’s heels with an
observant eye for stray rabbits. Man, and horse, and dog, and house on
wheels looked fitter for play than for work. There was something
exasperating in their idle looks and lazy meanderings. A holiday
company in holiday humour.

It was very pleasant creeping across the broad heath in the twilight.
Overhead, the sky, a dome of opal tints, showed here and there a
twinkling star; underfoot, the grass, dry with summer heat, revealed
moorland flowers. Between heaven and earth blew cool winds laden with
many odours. In vague immensity the plain spread on every side towards
the luminous horizon, and the caravan with its attendant life was but
a speck on its vast bosom. Bird and beast and insect had retired to
rest, and over all this large empty world brooded a dead silence. It
was less like a moor in crowded England than a trackless wilderness in
some unexplored country.

For over an hour man and animals pursued their way. With their backs
to the sunset, they pressed steadily onward, as if in search of some
unseen goal. Then the fox-terrier grew weary, and jumped up on the
doorstep behind, where he whimpered angrily for his victuals. His
master merely laughed at such doggish impatience, and kept a keen
look-out for the sign whereby to determine his halting-place for the
night. Shortly a mighty ridge topped by stunted pines heaved up like a
wave on the plain. The horse stopped at a signal from his driver.

“It cannot be far off now,” murmured the latter; “there are the pines,
but I don’t see the tall one.”

Here the road curved to the right, and round this the horse plodded
of his own accord. The change of position brought into sight a
many-branched pine, which showed proudly above its fellows. When he
saw the tree loom black against the clear sky, the owner of the
caravan gave a nod of satisfaction as at an expected sight, and looked
thoughtfully from road to heath. His meditation only lasted two
minutes.

“I must go cross country,” said he, and guided the horse on to the
yielding turf.

The vehicle swung and swayed and dipped and rose on the uneven ground,
but by leading the horse carefully an upset was avoided. In a quarter
of an hour the man and his belongings halted at the foot of the ridge
immediately below the tall pine. A dull murmur like the buzzing of
bees became audible, and the man stilled the impatient yapping of the
dog to listen.

“The sea!”

Hardly had the last word left his lips, when an old woman–ugly as the
witch of Endor–with red coif and scarlet cloak, hobbled out of the
wood and planted herself deliberately before him. Her brown face,
peaked eyes, and sharply cut features would have proclaimed her
Romany, even without her fantastic garments and dazzling gold coins.
From ears and neck and wrists depended strings of sequins, which
jingled musically as she shivered in the keen air and stared at the
new-comer. He beheld a withered gipsy hag, she a splendidly handsome
young man. In her feminine eyes he was well worth looking at. Brown
velveteen coat and knickerbockers, grey cloth shirt with blue
neckerchief, cloth cap, gaiters, and heavy boots. There you have his
dress–that of a gamekeeper. Yet the wearer would not have escaped the
guillotine in the Reign of Terror. Aristocrat was writ largely on face
and bearing. His six feet of stalwart manhood showed the influence of
athletic training; his masterful mien, and the imperious look of his
grey eyes, firm lips, and wide nostrils, betrayed the class to which
he belonged. A glance revealed that this dominating nature was derived
from long generations of men accustomed to command. His attempt to
pass as a man of the people was a dismal failure. A step, a word, a
gesture, proclaimed his breeding, and showed him superior to his
surroundings. With the astuteness of her race, the gipsy saw the stamp
of birth in this shabbily dressed vagrant, and framed her speech
accordingly.

“Cross my hand with gold, my fair-faced lord, and let the poor gipsy
tell your fortune.”

The man addressed smoothed his moustache, and looked down with a quiet
smile at the red-cloaked dame. He reflected before making answer, and
even when he opened his mouth gave her but little satisfaction.

“With you, no doubt, every one to be wheedled is a lord.”

“Trust a Romany to trick a Gorgio,” said she, with a flicker of mirth
in her glazed eye; “but truth will out at times. You are a gentleman,
rye.”

He glanced at the vehicle behind him, at his rough clothes and heavy
boots, and dismissed her speech with a contemptuous shrug of the
shoulders.

“A gentleman! A lord! And tramping the country tinker-fashion! Your
eyes are not sharp, mother.”

“Glib tongue! Steady eye. A rare lie, my dearie; but Mother Jericho
ain’t no fool. Can an eagle hide in goose-feathers? No! nor can you
hide gentle birth in rough clothes.”

“I am having greatness thrust upon me,” he answered smiling. “You are
quite wrong, mother. Some rags of gentility, some scraps of learning,
I may have picked up; but I am neither lord nor gentleman. My name is
Dan, and I set up for being a cheap-jack.”

“Can you patter, rye?”

“Can I what?” asked he, unable to understand her speech.

“He! he!” mocked Mother Jericho. “A fine cheap-jack, truly! Why, he
doesn’t even know the lingo of the road! No, no, my dearie; I’m too
fly to be taken in. Give me your hand and I’ll tell your fortune. Then
you can go.”

Dan was rather annoyed at this speech, which convicted him of being an
impostor, and turning away, led his horse past Mother Jericho. She
followed, screaming alternate blessings and cursings on his
indifference, but neither had the effect of making him pause. Seeing
it was useless to gain anything from such imperturbability, the old
woman marched off in the opposite direction with a farewell shake of
her fist. When the flare of her red cloak was no longer visible, Dan
laughed quietly, and patted the fox-terrier.

“Gipsies about, hey, Peter! We must keep a good watch to-night, or we
may wake to find ourselves robbed of everything. Here is a chance for
you to distinguish yourself, lad.”

Peter leaped up and whimpered as to assure Dan that he would do his
best; and once more set in motion, the caravan moved up the incline
between solemn files of pine trees. A pathway cut through the wood led
upward in gentle gradations, so that there was little difficulty in
making the ascent. It was now growing dark, and Dan pushed on rapidly
so as to reach his camping-place under the tall pine before it became
impossible to see his way.

At length the caravan arrived almost at the summit of the ridge, when
the road suddenly trended downward to the right and descended into a
small dell. This, hollowed in a rough semicircle, was immediately
below the tall pine, and being sheltered from the keen sea winds by
trees and rocky walls, made a very comfortable camping-place. The
limited area at the bottom bore marks of former wayfarers in the shape
of wheel-ruts, black ashes of ancient fires, and downtrodden grass.
With a nod of satisfaction, the individual who called himself Dan, and
asserted so strenuously that he was not a gentleman, halted his horse
and began to busy himself in preparations for his camp. He seemed to
know his business as pioneer and wanderer. The horse, who answered to
the unusual equine name of Simon, was unharnessed and turned loose to
feed on the plentiful grass which carpeted the bottom of the dell. Dan
rubbed him down in a most scientific manner, and then departed with
bucket and lantern to seek for water. Peter was left on guard, and as
a strong friendship existed between him and Simon, they bore the
absence of their master with less impatience than might have been
expected.

Nothing is so clearly defined as the pathway to a spring, for the
first act of all wayfarers is to search for water. Other paths may be
grass-grown and untrodden, but the way to the spring is always well
worn and plainly indicated. With the eye of a practical traveller, Dan
selected the most beaten path and followed its track, confident that
he would be able to fill his bucket where it ended. His expectations
proved correct, for a well of good water under the shadow of a rock
soon flashed in the rays of his lantern. Under the pines it was as
dark as midnight, and had not Dan been careful to lighten his steps
ahead, he would have pitched head foremost into the well. Had this
happened, Simon and Peter would have waited his return in vain. As it
was, they welcomed him back with neigh and bark. After filling the
tea-kettle, Dan placed the bucket before Simon, who buried his nose
therein with a grateful snort; nor did he lift his head till the water
was gone. His thirst thus satisfied, he betook himself again to his
grazing, and Dan, having been merciful to his beast, found time to be
merciful to himself. Peter took a deep interest in the movements of
his master. When the fire was lighted, he barked at the crackling of
the wood, and snapped fiercely at the flying sparks. As Peter danced
round it, the fire roared boisterously and lighted the rocky walls and
solemn pines with gleams of red flame. There is nothing more cheerful
than a fire, and even Dan, who had hitherto been silent, felt its
influence, for he broke into a merry song while getting out the food.
To the vagrant, where he lights his fire is home, and Dan, broiling
rashers of bacon over the friendly flame, felt that he was in his own
parlour.

Assisted by Peter, whose mouth watered at the smell and sight of
victuals, Dan made ready a plentiful meal. He was a most accomplished
cook, and carried with him a store of comestibles which it is certain
are unknown in gipsydom. Does your Romany know of _pâte de foie gras_,
or of Italian _salami_; or does he even guess at the existence of
olives, or of _caviare?_ All these toothsome morsels had this
luxurious young man in his caravan, thereby giving the lie to his
pretence of vagrancy. He was, without doubt, some outcast from
civilization who regretted the flesh-pots of Egypt. He loved the life,
but not the coarse fare, of the road, and was, so to speak, only
playing at being a gipsy. Thoreau would have scorned so half-hearted a
disciple, nor would Obermann have relished the company of so patent a
sybarite.

Yet on this special occasion Dan devoured none of his delicacies, but
contented himself with dry bread, broiled bacon, and capital tea. With
an appetite sharpened by keen air and long walks, he performed Homeric
feats in the way of eating. For Peter a mutton-bone was provided, and
he too proved a valiant trencher-dog–if such a term be allowable.
There have been worse meals than that enjoyed by those two in the
lonely dell, and when Dan finished his bacon and Peter his bone, both
were thoroughly content.

Supper despatched, Dan repaired to the spring for a second bucket of
water, while Peter remained selfishly curled up beside the fire. Even
when his master returned he took little notice of what was going on,
feeling no interest in proceedings unconnected with his appetite.

Dan gave Simon another drink, patted his neck and saw that his halter
was safe, then went into the caravan. Thence he emerged with a fur
rug, and spreading this beside the fire, he stretched himself thereon
with a contented sigh.

And now came in the “sweet o’ the night,” for Dan pulled out and
charged a well-seasoned briar. This was the crowning joy of the day,
and Dan envied neither king nor kaiser as he luxuriated in the Indian
weed. Simon cropped the sweet grass near at hand; Peter, filled to
repletion, snored with wakeful eye in the warmest place; and Dan
smoked and read. And what think you he read, but Borrow’s glorious
“Lavengro?”–the most fitted book for such a gipsy, for such a
situation. By the red firelight he read for the hundredth time that
ever-new story of the Dingle, of Isopel, and of lovemaking in the
Armenian tongue. What magic courtship! “Robinson Crusoe” for boys, but
“Lavengro” for men–the more especially for those who incline to
gipsydom, and find life flavourless save when on road or heath, under
hedge or beside a camp-fire. For such Borrow’s books have the
authority of Scripture.

In Birrel’s happy phrase, Dan was “a born Borrovian.” His face was
alive with pleasure as he conned the magic page, nor did he fail to
compare the situation of Lavengro with his own.

“This might well pass for the Dingle,” said he, letting the book fall.
“I am certainly Lavengro in real life; but, alas! where is my Isopel?
And did I find her, would it be possible to teach her lovemaking in
the Armenian tongue? I am ignorant of such recondite matters;
therefore it were best that no Isopel, with ready fist and sharp
tongue, invade my privacy. Yet I would not mind meeting with the
Flaming Tinman.” Here he looked at his mighty arm. “I would do my best
to thrash him. But woe is me! there is no Borrow to chant my victory.”

Such a speech, akin to blank verse, was doubtless inspired by
Borrovian periods; but who ever heard a gipsy soliloquize thus, or saw
one peruse the chronicle of that modern Ulysses? Dan asserted that he
was no gentleman, yet in looks, in words, breeding would out, and
Mother Jericho was as clever as the rest of her sex in detecting a
palpable fraud. Yet what did this _soi-disant_ vagrant in the pinewood
dell reading “Lavengro” by a camp-fire? Ah, that is a long story, and
cannot be told at present.

Simon cropped, Peter snored, and Dan was immersed in the account of
that Homeric fight between Lavengro and the Flaming Tinman. So
profoundly was he interested, that he heard not the approach of
stealthy footsteps. But Peter was on the alert, and sprang into the
darkness with angry yelp. Roused by the signal of danger, Dan arose to
his feet and stood on the defensive, for one meets with adventures in
England as in Timbuctoo.

“Who is there?” he demanded, striding to the edge of the circle cast
by the firelight.

“He! he! my dearie, call off the dog. May he burn, spark of the evil
one!”

“Mother Jericho! Here, Peter!”

“Yes, it is I, dearie. Bless you, rye, I knew you’d camp here.”

The scarlet cloak emerged into the firelight, and Dan beheld his gipsy
friend uglier than ever in the flickering light. She shook her stick
at Peter, who responded with furious tongue; whereat Dan caught him up
in his arms and choked him into silence. Mother Jericho, interpreting
this as a sign of welcome, hobbled near the fire and seated herself in
a comfortable corner. In no wise resentful of her company–for even
with “Lavengro” he found the dell a trifle lonely–Dan threw himself
down in his old place and waited to hear what his visitor had to say.

Evidently determined to act as a good comrade, Mother Jericho
produced a dirty pipe and clawed the air in the direction of Dan’s
tobacco-pouch. He tossed it towards her, and, while she filled pipe
and pocket, produced from the caravan a bottle of whisky. Filling a
glass with this desirable drink, he looked interrogatively at the old
woman.

“Hot or cold water?” said he, deeming the undiluted spirit too strong
for so aged a person.

“Neat, dearie, neat! It’s good for me in that way. I git on’y too much
water on rainy nights.”

Having finished the whisky (a speedily performed operation) she
lighted her pipe, and, puffing vigorously, leered at her host out of
the smoke like an ugly cherub. He thought of Lavengro’s companion in
the same situation, and groaned.

“What a substitute for Isopel!” he muttered disgustedly.

“Hey!” croaked Mother Jericho, arching a skinny hand behind her ear.
“Speak up, rye; I’m deaf.”

“What are you doing so late in this wood?” said Dan, not choosing to
repeat his remark, which, indeed, would have been Greek to the old
hag. “Where are your people?”

“Near at hand, my dearie, near at hand. I came to see you here afore
going to bed.”

“I hope none of them will follow your example, mother. I don’t want to
be robbed.”

“You won’t be, rye! Burn me if you lose so much as a stick. They are
my people,” said Mother Jericho, confidentially; “and I told them not
to come near you, dearie.”

“That’s very kind of you,” said Dan, somewhat astonished at the
protection thus accorded. “And may I ask why you have tabooed me in
this way?”

“Hey! Tabooed! What’s that?”

“It’s Polynesian for protection.”

“Polly what? I don’t know no Pollys,” said Mother Jericho, crossly.
“I’ve come to read your hand and tell your fortune.”

“I don’t believe in such rubbish.”

“You will afore you leave Farbis.”

“Will I, indeed? And where is Farbis?”

“Over this ridge by the sea. Can’t you hear the waves roaring? You
allays hear ’em on still nights, dearie. Give me your hand, my brave
rye.”

“I don’t want my hand read,” said Dan, unwillingly. “If it’s money you
want, here is a half-crown.”

Mother Jericho clawed the coin into her pocket with a mumbled
exclamation of delight; then, before he could withdraw his hand,
seized it and held it towards the red flame, palm upward. Half
frowning, half laughing, Dan let her scan the lines, which she
followed with the point of a skinny finger.

“There are partings and meetings,” said the sibyl. “You have come on a
weary journey, and seek a pearl. What you seek you shall find, but
beware of gold and silver hair.”

“What do you mean? What jargon is this?”

“Two women shall love you, rye, and the one you hate shall seek your
hand; she will aim her arrows at your heart.”

“At my heart?”

“She will seek to do you evil through one whom you shall love. Here
are fire and flame, and furious cries and brave deeds. A false father,
a false mother, and joy coming up through the Gates of Dawn.”

“Rubbish!”

Not understanding a word of her meaning, he pulled his hand roughly
away. The old woman broke into a peal of derisive laughter, and sucked
at her pipe in silence. In the red glow of the fire she looked like
some evil creature of the night. Dan resented her presence and
prophecies, and spoke angrily.

“Why do you come here to tell me this nonsense?” he said, leaning
forward. “I am not a superstitious fool, though, you take me for one.
I don’t love one woman, let alone two.”

“You will love afore you leave Farbis, dearie.”

“Indeed!” said he contemptuously. “Perhaps I will marry also!”

“Ay. But there is much to be done afore then.”

Deeming it useless to argue against such obstinacy, Dan relapsed into
silence and smoked his pipe. Yet, in spite of his apparent disbelief,
he had an uneasy consciousness that the sibyl had read his mind and
purpose clearer than he cared to think. He was a reticent young man,
and hated to hear his private affairs discussed. But it was strange
that this midnight hag should speak so truly. Dan was puzzled and
displeased.

“Have you ever seen me before?” he asked, after a meditative pause.

“No, dearie, I never set eyes on you. I only read what Fate has
written on your hand. It’s print to me, dearie.”

“I tell you I don’t believe in palmistry.”

“You will some day, rye.”

“If I fall in love and marry before I leave Farbis, I may,” he
responded ironically; “but as that is not likely to happen, I am
afraid your black art will not gain a disciple.”

Mother Jericho took no notice of this sceptical speech, but rapping
the ashes out of her pipe, stowed it carefully away in the folds of
her dress.

“I must go now, dearie,” she said, rising stiffly to her feet; “but
when I see ye to-morrow the spell will be on you. Ay, ay, laugh as you
please, but Joy comes up for you through the Gates of Dawn!”

“What Gates of Dawn?”

“You’ll see to-morrow, rye! And at noon you will find a guest by your
fire.”

“You!”

“Not I, dearie. But some one who wishes you well. Good night, my brave
rye. I put the spell on you.” Here she waved her stick like a
malignant fairy. “Go you at daybreak to the sea and meet your fate at
the Gates of Dawn.”

After the delivery of this mystic speech, she vanished as by magic
into the darkness of the night. Dan looked into the gloom, somewhat
bewildered by her sudden departure, which smacked of the broomstick,
then returned to his book with a shrug of his broad shoulders. But
Borrow failed to charm his preoccupied brain, and after one or two
unsuccessful attempts to fix his attention on the page, he desisted
with an impatient exclamation.

“That old lady is a trifle weak in the head, I fear,” said he,
yawning. “What does she mean by her ‘joy coming up through the Gates
of Dawn?’ Does she take me for a new Tithonus on the watch for Aurora?
Yet it is strange that she knows of my desire,” he added reflectively;
“I thought no one knew of that but myself. Ah, bah! Every young man
wishes to love, to marry. Her necromancy is all guesswork.”

Thus contemptuously dismissing the subject, he smoked a final pipe and
made his preparations for retiring to rest. The night was so fine that
he could not bring himself to sleep in the stuffy caravan, and finally
decided to take his rest in the open air. After a drink of whisky to
keep out the dews, he wrapped himself in the fur rug, and lay
comfortably by the fire. Peter curled himself into a ball, and kept
one eye on his master, the other on Simon. The wind wuddered through
the pine trees overhead, but in the deep of the dell all was still and
warm. The red flames leaped skyward to the stars until the fire died
to grey ashes, and, save sigh of wind and roar of sea, no sound was
heard. Lying on his back, Dan, oblivious to all outward things, went
to the land of dreams, and there met Joy coming up through the Gates
of Dawn. Mother Jericho’s spell was acting bravely.

Should the stay-at-home happen to sleep under a strange roof, on one
of his rare journeys, bewilderment and pain attend the hour of his
waking. With sleep-bemused brain he eyes the unfamiliar room, and it
is some considerable time before he can grasp the situation. The alien
appearance of wall-paper and furniture, the different position of bed
and door, come on his mind with a sense of pain. Like the little old
woman of the nursery rhyme, he says, “This is not I,” and it is
difficult for him to arrive at an immediate conclusion as to
personality and locality. The strangeness of the situation dazes his
homely wits.

Not so with your traveller. Whether he opens his eyes in palace or
hovel, under roof or sky, he is in the instant fully aware of his
position. Accustomed to a constant change of scene, his wits are
always on the alert for new sights. If he went to sleep in France and
woke in Yokohama, he would cease to be astonished before finishing his
waking yawn. There is no sense of pain in his waking, but rather a
pleasant novelty, which renews itself with every stage of the journey.
Your cosmopolitan is the most adaptable of creatures.

Dan was one of these enviable beings, and woke in the early morning
with a due knowledge of his position. He rubbed his eyes and yawned
and stretched himself, moved about briskly to restore the circulation
of his blood, and made up the fire. A few embers were still red-hot,
so he had no difficulty in fanning them into a blaze under an armful
of dry sticks. The sun had not yet risen, and the air, notwithstanding
that it was July, struck raw and cold. A pearly light pierced through
the sombre boughs overhead, and already the pine wood echoed with the
chirrup and twittering of waking birds. Peter went off on his own
account in chase of an inquisitive rabbit, and Dan, after seeing to
Simon, brewed himself a cup of strong tea, which enabled him to endure
more comfortably the chill winds of morning.

In spite of the heavy dew on herb and grass, Dan’s clothes were quite
dry, as he had taken the precaution to wrap himself tightly in his fur
rug. But, having slept in his clothes all night, he felt
uncomfortable–another proof of his sybaritism–and decided to have a
bath before breakfast. Also he thought it advisable that Simon should
have a splash in the water, and so made ready to go down to the beach.

“We don’t know where the sea is,” said he to Peter, who had returned
without catching his rabbit, “but we’ll go on an exploring
expedition.”

Peter whimpered, and hinted at breakfast before starting.

“No, Peter,” said Dan, gravely, putting a bridle on Simon; “a swim
first, and breakfast to follow.” Whereat Peter sat disconsolately on
his haunches and shivered. He did not care for a swim, and, indeed,
detested water with all his heart.

Dan had no saddle, but, being a good rider, did not mind its absence.
The bridle was sufficient to guide Simon, and Dan, having obtained a
rough towel, jumped without difficulty on the bare back of his steed.
Followed by Peter, who, knowing what was before him, came unwillingly,
he rode up the path leading from the dell. Yet, mindful of the
proximity of Mother Jericho’s tribe, he took the precaution to lock up
his caravan before leaving. Dan was too old and wary a traveller to
trust to the taboo of the gipsy queen. Some member of the tribe less
bound by authority than his fellows might break the unwritten law.

There was a chilly feeling in the air, and so strongly with the
resinous odour of the pines blended the tang of salt sea-breezes, that
Dan scented the ocean long before Simon climbed the ridge. There was
an upward path, and this Dan followed, in the hope that it would lead
him to the sea. It wound deviously among the pine trees, and at length
emerged into a small clearing, whence Dan had a splendid view of
Farbis and the sea. He halted Simon so as to take in the features of
the place. It was well worth the ten minutes’ examination he gave it.

Immediately below lay a large hollow almost in the shape of a circle,
which curved towards the sea and there opened out into a narrow
passage. Without doubt, at some remote epoch the ocean had roared
through the gap and filled the hollow with salt waters, but the
upheaval of the land had cut off the waves, and now the dry cup was
filled with trees and houses.

The sides were clothed with pines, which climbed up to the top and
straggled off in patches on to the barren moorland. From where Dan was
stationed he could see the moors stretching on either side purple with
heather, then the sudden dip of the land into the hollow, the giant
rocks guarding its entrance, and beyond, the line of ocean sharply
defined against the red sky of dawn. In the smokeless atmosphere all
the features of the scene stood out with photographic distinctness.

The “village, a cluster of houses with one street, lay in the lowest
part of the hollow. Among the pine trees, to the right, Dan saw a
large house of weather-stained red brick, which he guessed was Farbis
Court. From the clearing a path wound down to the village, and Dan
descended thereby. To reach the sea he would have to pass through
Farbis, and out by the gap where the giant rocks stood sentinel. All
this, seen under the rosy tints of coming day, was very beautiful, and
Dan gazed at it in silent admiration.

“Queer little place,” he thought, as Simon jogged downward; “quite out
of the track of civilization. A speck in these wide moorlands. What
can the inhabitants do to keep themselves supplied with the
necessaries of life? They can’t live entirely on fish! I never saw so
lonely a place. It must have been established by some hermit.”

With cautious steps Simon descended the pathway, which was in anything
but good repair. The edging of rough stone had fallen in parts, and
here the rain had washed away huge gaps, perilous to the unwary foot.
Dan found it impossible to guide the horse down a pathway as beset
with snares as the Bridge of Mirza, so he wisely trusted to Simon’s
instinct. The animal justified the confidence placed in him, and
landed his rider at the bottom without any mishap. He received a kind
pat on the neck for such cleverness, a piece of attention of which he
seemed appreciative.

Dan felt a curious sensation, as though he had been let down into a
pit. On three sides of him rose the steep banks, covered with pines
and shrubs and sappy grass. In front, an untended road led past some
scattered houses into the village. Peter ran ahead as herald, and,
with the sharp sea-breeze blowing in his face, Dan pushed forward.

Down the street clattered Simon, with the terrier barking before. To
doors and windows came drowsy men and women, newly wakened from sleep.
A few untidy children and slatternly females were in the street
itself, and stared open-mouthed at the unaccustomed sight. Dan might
have been the Wild Horseman himself, so profound was the sensation
caused by his progress through that tumble-down village. Evidently
strangers were rare in Farbis.

A more poverty-stricken place it is impossible to conceive. The
cottages were badly thatched, the windows in many cases broken and
mended with rags, and there were puddles in front of the doors. In a
wide space towards the end of the village Dan came on the two
principal buildings. To the right, an ivy-clad church with square
Norman tower, set in a waste-looking graveyard; to the left, a
flourishing-looking public-house, “The Red Deer,” with benches
outside. It could easily be seen, from the appearance of this latter
place, what made Farbis so wretched. The women were all remarkably
ugly, and particularly careless about their dress. Dan, who had a keen
eye for a pretty face, shuddered at the Gorgons he beheld, and
trembled to think of Mother Jericho’s prophecy.

“If I am to meet my fate here,” he murmured, “I sincerely hope it will
not be through a temporary aberration of mind. It would be bad enough
for _one_ of these creatures to fall in love with me; but to think of
_two_–great heavens, it’s too awful to contemplate!”

He urged Simon to a clumsy trot in order to escape the ugly female
population, and speedily left the village behind. The road now began
to rise towards the two great cliffs which sentinelled the gap, and
Dan could hear the roar of the sea; could smell the salt odour of the
wave. Up the road he went, and at the entrance to the gap beheld a
splendid sight.

Directly in front of him was a narrow slit between the great rocks,
and through this he saw the ocean. It faced due east, and the sky
flamed crimson like a funeral pile. The ruddy light poured in rich
profusion through the chasm and bathed him in hues of blood. A native,
with open mouth, was climbing the road after him, and Dan, hearing his
heavy footstep, looked round.

“What do you call this?” he asked sharply.

“T’ Geates o’ Dawn,” replied the native, and stared harder than ever.

“And Joy comes up through the Gates of Dawn,” murmured Dan, as the
gipsy’s words flashed again into his mind. “How strange! Here are the
‘Gates of Dawn,’ but where is the embodied Joy? Hark! Some one is
singing from the sea. A mermaid!”

“Noa, measter,” said the yokel, grinning from ear to ear at this
extravagant idea; “’tis t’ ould doctor’s lass.”

Over the rim of ocean leaped the sun, and shafts of dazzling gold
streamed through the Gates of Dawn. The sea turned to fire, and the
fierce radiance smote the red firmament to glowing gold. Such splendid
glitter and flame poured through the chasm that Dan put his hand to
his eyes to keep himself from being blinded. It is ill work to face
the sun-god in his anger.

“Apollo is fiercer than Aurora,” said Dan, blinking his eyes. “I would
rather be Tithonus than Daphne. I wonder she did not share the fate of
Semele and expire in the glorious divinity of her lover.”

“T’ doctor’s lass,” again said the yokel, nodding up the road.

Down it, in the full splendour of the sunlight, came a girl singing.
Dan could distinguish the words as they floated skyward on the music
of her voice. And she sang—-

“The red light flames in the eastern skies,
The dew lies heavy on lea and lawn,
Grief with her anguish, of midnight flies,
And Joy comes up thro’ the Gates of Dawn.”

Such a vision of ripe beauty! This was surely no mortal maiden who
danced down the road, but Aurora heralding the approach of the
sun-god. Dan almost expected to see her scatter tufts of rosy cloud,
and gaped like a yokel himself at the lovely woman who was coming
towards him.

Evidently she had been bathing, for her dark hair, still wet with the
salt sea, streamed in profusion down her back. In a long blue cloak,
with naked feet, she danced along, singing. Her face was beautiful–so
much only could Dan gather as she flashed past him like a meteor. The
presence of a stranger did not seem to rouse her curiosity, for she
did not even turn her head to look at him, but, singing and dancing,
went down the road towards the village. That splendid vision of
immortal beauty lasted but two minutes.

“T’ doctor’s lass,” explained the yokel for the third time.

“By Ph[oe]bus, no!” cried Dan, kicking Simon’s sleek sides; “it
is no mortal, but a goddess–an angel–a vision of the sunrise. My
fate–pshaw!–my divinity! The face that launched a thousand ships!
The golden Hebe–incarnate beauty–everlasting Joy!”

With a laugh at his mythological folly, he dashed down the road,
leaving the bucolic individual staring with all his might. When
Rusticus shut his mouth, the stranger on his black horse was sweeping
like the wind across the broad sands, shouting out a single line. The
yokel heard it, and wondered.

“And Joy comes up thro’ the Gates of Dawn.”

The inhabitant of Farbis went back to his breakfast with the opinion
that the stranger was either mad or the devil.

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