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CURIOUS AND WONDERFULTALES.
LONDON: PRINTED BYSPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUAR1IAND PARLIAMENT STREET
IS IT TRUE ?TALESCURIO US & WONDERFULCOLLECTED BY THEAUTHOR OF 'JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN.'LONDON:SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, LOW, & SEARLE,CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET.1872.All rights reserved.
PREFACE.'IS IT TRUE ?'-a question children are sure toask about any curious or wonderful story; and theymay well ask it of some of these tales.I can only answer, that many people must havebelieved them to be true, since each is foundedon a tradition, current in the place where it issupposed to have happened. Probably at the root- of all lies a grain of truth, that in course of yearshas grown up and blossomed into these extra-ordinary fictions, which of course nobody can beexpected to believe. But they are generallyamusing, and sometimes pathetic. Besides, thereis a clear thread of right and wrong running
vi PREFACE.through them, as it does through most legendswhich deal with the supernatural world. There(as here, soon or late) virtue is always rewardedand vice punished.The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small;Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grindsHe all.It is this spirit which consecrates the true un-truth, the wise foolishness, of fairy tales, and in-deed of all imaginative literature.Nor, I think, will any sensible child mistake thevast difference between imagination and falsehood:between the weaving of a mere romance ('all pre-tence, all out of my own head, mamma,' as a littlegirl sometimes says, who tells me the most astonish-ing stories, but who never told an untruth in herlife), and that deliberate inventing or falsifying offacts which we stigmatise and abhor as lying.Therefore, I do not think any child will be theworse for reading these tales. They have beencollected out of the folk-lore of various countries,
PREFACE. Viiand written, at my suggestion, by various hands.I have written none myself, but I have revisedthe whole; and with as much pleasure as if Iwere again a child, and believed in fairies asearnestly as I once did, and as the little personbefore named does now. But it is only with herimagination : not, to use her own phrase, 'reallyand truly.' She quite understands the difference;"and never expects to meet a fairy in every-daylife; though I dare say she would like it verymuch-and so would many of my readers-andso should I.THE EDITOR.a
CONTENTS.PAGEThe Story of Elidure IThe Witch of Argouges 43Fanchomick's Fairy Gifts .61Lez Breis, the Breton David 83Eryfphina's Child 95yeandrin the Goblin 2The Wonderful Turkey. 28The Night Washerwomen 140The Banshee of White-goat Glen 157The Castle in the Lough 187
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THE STORE Y OF ELIDURE.ONG, long ago, on a sunny seat beneath agrey monastery wall, an old monk in thesummer days used to sit, hour after hour,leaning upon his staff, and gazing before him with dimdreamy eyes that seemed always to be looking far awaybeyond the hills for something he could never find. The'sunshine filled the little green Welsh valley round him;the village children playing outside the monastery wallshushed their voices sometimes, and stole near with graveand curious faces to look at him through the iron gate ;but Elidure scarcely noticed them. An old, old man, hesat alone, dreaming over the story of his youth. For astrange and marvellous thing had happened to him then;S B
2 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.and, on the rare occasions when he could be persuadedto speak about it, this was the tale he told.Many years before, when he was a boy, learning hadnot been a pleasant thing to him. Possibly becausealmost from the time when he had first come into theworld his father had resolved to make a learned man ofhim, and as soon as he was old enough to learn hisletters had got some of the monks, in this same monas-tery where he now lived, to train him and tutor him, andteach him Latin and Greek. The poor little lad, whowas always wanting to be out playing in the fields, hadbeen set to pore over his books morning, noon, andnight, till he hated the work, and got so many thrashingsfor doing it badly, that at last he resolved he would notbear it any longer, but made up his mind to run away,and seek his own fortune in the world.One day, accordingly, instead of going as usual to themonastery, when he had set out from home with hislittle bundle of books upon his back, he turned his faceexactly the other way, and, going as fast as he could fora few miles, he came to a cave hollowed out of a rock by
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 3the bank of a river, and having first sunk his bag of booksin the water-for he hated them so that it quite comfortedhim to get rid of them in that way-he crept into thishollow place, resolving to hide himself in it till his fatherand mother should give him up for lost. He was onlytwelve years old, so that naturally he was not as yet verywise. I daresay he thought that he could live for agood while upon blackberries, and probably he lookedforward to being able to lead a very happy life presently,rambling about upon the hills, with nobody to speakcrossly to him, or whip him, or send him to his crabbedLatin books.However, before much more than a very few hours hadpassed, he began to find that blackberries, even whenyou can have as many of them as you want, are veryunsubstantial food, and that it is rather a dull thing fora little lad to have nobody to talk to, and nobody to saya word to him. Indeed, to tell the truth, he found itvery cheerless to be hungry and solitary; nor did he likeit a bit the better when night came. Then, having, ofcourse, no bed-clothes, he got so cold that he was hardlyable to go to sleep. Yet he had some spirit; and so,
4 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.since he had run away, he resolved, however disagree-able it was, that he would not go home again, but wouldmake the best of it. In a day or two they will havegiven up looking for me,' he thought to himself,' andthen I shall be able to steal away, and I daresay I shallsoon find something else to eat besides blackberries, andsome little boys who will like to play with me, and Ishall be as happy as the days are long.'So he comforted himself, and kept up his courage withthese reflections as well as he could; and when the firstnight was gone and the morning had come again, hetried hard to forget how hungry he was, and began todo his utmost to amuse himself by watching the spidersnear him spinning their webs, and a little colony of antsstoring up food in their ant-house for the coming winter,and the bees going to and fro getting their honey fromthe flowers. But, though he tried to amuse himself withthese things, yet every minute he was getting more andmore hungry; and when midday had come, and he hadeaten up all the blackberries that grew near the littlecave's mouth, and when the long afternoon hours beganto steal slowly on, and he thought of the dark, cold, weary
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 5night that would presently return again, his spirit sank solow that if a very curious thing had not suddenly hap-pened to him I almost think in a little more time hewould have taken to his heels and run home again. Buta very curious thing did happen.Suddenly, as he was sitting, wearily enough, lookingon the ground at those very little ants, who never ceasedtheir work, to his amazement a clear small voice close tohim all at once said,' Ahem !' and, lifting up his head,his eyes grew as round as saucers with astonishment, andhis heart jumped into his mouth, for what do you thinkhe saw before him ? At the entrance to his cave weretwo little figures standing, the like of which he had neverbeheld in all his life before. They were a pair of littlemen, not more than a foot high, dressed in the neatestand most dapper way, with crimson cloaks, and pointedhats, and white silk stockings gartered at the knee. Theyhad most grave and serious faces, too, and they cameforward, bowing their little peaked heads so solemnlythat if he had been only a degree less frightened, Elidurewould hardly have been able to keep from laughing. Asit was, however, he was rather too much terrified to laugh,
6 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.and so he only scrambled to his feet, and stood holdinghis breath till one of the two little men began to speak.It was the elder who spoke first, in a grave, gentle voice.'Elidure, we have come here in search of you. Youare hungry; we will give you food. You have left yourhome; come with us, and you shall find another homethat you will never want to leave.''Our country is near at hand,' said the other littleman,' and it is a land full of delight. We have everythingthat is beautiful there, and no sin or sorrow. Come withus, and we will lead you to it.'When Elidure heard these civil speeches he tookheart again, and almost laughed.'I certainly am most terribly hungry,' said he.'Come, then, where food is awaiting you,' said thefirst little man.'Well, staying here much longer, would be almost asbad as-learning Latin.'' Nobody learns Latin in our country,' answered thesecond little man.The moment Elidure heard this, he felt that he couldresist the little men's invitation no longer.
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 7'What-nobody learns Latin? Then I certainly willcome with you. And I should like to come at once, forI am getting so hungry that I hardly know what to do.'No sooner had he made this answer than the twopigmies bowed again with great solemnity, and appearinghighly satisfied, reached up their tiny hands, which werejust able to touch the points of his fingers, and placingthemselves one on either side of him, led him out of hishiding-place and into a curious subterranean way whichopened suddenly before them, Elidure could not tellhow. It was a long passage, that looked as if it was cutthrough a great rock. The light grew dim as they wentthrough it, yet they could always see the way beforethem, and presently a sort of soft cloudy brightness cameagain. Then, all at once, the narrow passage widened,and Elidure saw stretched out before him a strange fairland, all beautiful with hills and streams and sweet greensummer trees, yet all in miniature, like a landscapepainted in a picture.'Is this your country?' said Elidure, and lookedabout him for a minute, then burst out laughing. Therewas an apple-tree beside him, and the apples growing 8g THE STORY OF ELIDUREon it were no bigger than green peas. He gathered adozen of them (for, you see, he was so very hungry) andput them in his mouth together. 'They taste very good,but how will you ever get enough of them or of anythingelse to feed me with?' said Elidure, laughing still.' Trust to us-we will find food for you,' answered thelittle men.They still walked beside Elidure, one on either side ofhim; but, in a very few minutes after they had emergedfrom the subterranean way, whole troops of other littlemen began to gather round them, and women smallereven than the men, and children tinier than either. .all directions they came hurrying on, all neatly dressed inpretty-coloured clothes, with long fair hair, and all talkingeagerly with shrill sweet voices. They spoke a languagethat Elidure had never heard before, and yet, m somestrange way, he seemed to understand them as if they hadbeen talking in his native Welsh, and even more thanthis, for presently-though how it came about he had notafterwards the least idea-he found himself too speakingthis unknown tongue quite glibly, as though he had beenaccustomed to it all his life.
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 9For a little while he and this crowd of tiny peoplewith him walked on together, the two little men oneither side of him conducting him with the greatestcourtesy, and most civilly answering every question thathe put to them about the curious new things he saw; foras they advanced they passed by many things that werewholly strange to him-houses and temples built in afashion that he had never seen before, trees such as didnot grow in the upper world, flowers of curious form andcolour.At last they came to a gorgeous and extensive build-r,- which they told him was the palace of the king, andwhen they approached near to it,'We will enter here, and present you to his majesty,'gravely said one of the little men.'Very good--only how in the world am I to get in ?'asked Elidure ; and indeed he might very well put thisquestion, for the palace was exactly like a very finedoll's house, and unless Elidure had got into it crawlingon his hands and knees (which would have been a veryundignified way of making his entrance), it was hard tosay how he was to reach the interior of it. The difficulty,
IO THE STORY OF ELIDURE.however, seemed to be one that till this moment had notstruck either of the pigmies, for at Elidure's questionthey appeared to be taken quite aback.' H'm,' exclaimed both the little men, and they sud-denly stood still, and fell to stroking their beards, andthinking deeply.' His majesty might perhaps grant you an audience outof doors,' said the first little man dubiously, after a fewmoments' consideration.' He'll have to do that, or not to have it at all, I think,'answered Elidure bluntly; and, though this was not avery courtly speech, yet there was so much common sensein it that, without more ado, one of the little men wentoff and stated the perplexity that they were in to theking, and in five minutes more his majesty-who wasapparently a very reasonable monarch-and all his lordsin waiting were assembled round Elidure in the palacecourtyard.It was a very pretty sight, if Elidure had not been toohungry to care much about it, for the king was veryhandsome, and a full-two inches taller than any of hissubjects, and he, as well as all his courtiers, were most
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. IIgorgeously dressed in blue and crimson and cloth ofgold; but, in truth, poor Elidure was getting every mo-ment more and more faint with hunger, and would ratherjust now have seen a loaf of good white bread beforehim than the most beautiful dresses or diamonds in theworld. So when the king began to talk to him, as hevery soon did in the most affable way, after he had firstof all given him his hand to kiss, and graciously assuredhim of his protection, and introduced his son PrincePhos to him, and his daughter Princess Zoa-when, afterall this, the king proceeded to invite him to take a seatupon the ground (civilly regretting that no chair in hisdominions was of sufficient size and strength to hold him),and deliberately began a conversation with him aboutthe upper world, then poor Elidure could bear it nolonger. Unable to foresee how long the king mightlike to go on talking, he suddenly blurted out,' If you please, your majesty, I've had no food sinceyesterday.'' Dear me,' exclaimed the king instantly, in a tone ofgreat concern, 'no food since yesterday. You must bevery hungry, then.'
12 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.'I am very hungry,' answered Elidure.'I should like to see you eat,' said the king.'Anybody who likes may see me eat, if I only sawsomething that could be eaten.''Bring some food instantly,' said the king to some ofhis attendants,' and as speedily as possible let a sheep beroasted.'Upon this half-a-dozen of the attendants hurried away,and in a very few minutes they had spread a table in thecourtyard, and set upon it all the food that was in thepalace larder. There was a nice little leg of muttonabout three inches long, and a ham of much the samesize, and a sirloin of beef that had just been cut an hourago for the king's luncheon. Elidure had scarcely beeneating for ten minutes before all these different viandshad wholly disappeared.'Prodigious!' exclaimed the king, who was sittingstaring at him with all his might. Prodigious !' echoedall the courtiers; and you could even hear the crowd inthe distance that was gathered outside the courtyardmurmuring 'Prodigious!' For, indeed, to these littlepeople, it was of course a most amazing sight to see
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 13sirloins of beef and legs of mutton vanishing one afteranother down Elidure's throat without his appetite ap-pearing to be at all diminished by them. In fact, henot only cleared off all the cold meat before him, but,when it appeared, he ate so much of the roast sheep too,that by the time he rose up from table he left little butthe bones behind him. 'Most amazing! most pro-digious !' said his majesty again, lifting up his two tinyhands ; for Elidure did really at last seem to havereached the completion of his meal.While he had been eating, little Zoa had crept up tohis side, and had stood for a time beside him as he satupon the ground, looking at him with her soft blue eyes.She was a very tiny creature, for she was only a child,and Elidure, as he glanced at her, sometimes a littleshyly, thought she was the prettiest little thing that hehad ever seen in his life. Once or twice while he washaving his dinner she put out her little fairy hand andtouched him, and then smiled when he looked round.' You are very big. Are all the men so big in yourcountry 1' she said wonderingly to him once.Elidure began to laugh when she asked him this.
14 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.' Why, I am only a boy,' said Elidure; our men aretwice as big as I am.'' Twice as big! Oh dear And do they eat twice asmuch too?' asked Zoa then; and upon that Elidureblushed, and tried to explain rather shamefacedly how hewas more than usually hungry to-day, but that he hopedat his next meal to astonish Zoa a little less. The childsmiled again when he made this answer to her.'I hope you have had enough now. Don't stopunless you have had quite enough,' she said, in her tinygracious voice.There was a soft warm air throughout the place, andover everything a sort of veiled calm light, paler andcooler than sunlight.' Does the sun not shine here ?' Elidure asked one ofthe courtiers after his meal was ended, and the courtiershook his head with a little shudder.'The sunshine would scorch us up-we could not bearit,' he replied. No, there-is no sunshine here. Thesesoft clouds are always in the sky. If we had to live asyou live in the upper world we should wither and fadeaway.'
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 15After his dinner was ended, some of the courtiers hadbegun to talk to Elidure; and they talked to him for along time, and carried him away with them, and showedhim many things that were new and strange. The king'sson came with them too. He was older than Zoa, andtall and handsome like his father, and he was verycourteous to Elidure, and asked him many questionsabout his former life ; but Elidure liked Zoa best, andwhen his walk with Prince Phos was ended, and theycame back to the king's palace, his face brightened"when he saw little Zoa sitting at one of the windowslooking out. The child was glad too, for she clappedher hands at sight of Elidure, and laughed as helooked up.' I should like to come and play with you. May Icome down and play with you ?' she called to him inher shrill little musical voice.Even already a strange feeling of content and peacehad begun to steal into Elidure's heart. All things werestrange to him here, and yet he felt no fear of them;before more than a day or two had passed it almostseemed to him as if he had known these friendly little
I6 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.people, with their gentle faces and gentle voices, all hislife. He found out quickly that the country to which hehad come was one indeed, as they had told him, wherelife was a pure delight, for in all the land there seemed tobe no trouble nor sorrow ; no man fought with his fellowman, nor strove to rise above the rest, nor stole, nor lied,nor treated others cruelly.'In the upper world you struggle with one another,you cheat and murder, you trample the weak ones underfoot,' some of the pigmies would often say to him. 'Wevisit your world sometimes, and we know all this. Youare like children and fools. You know no content, andno peace nor rest. We are happy because we seek fornothing. We neither struggle nor toil; we know neitherjealousy nor ambition, nor the love of riches, nor thedesire of fame.'Sometimes when they spoke to him thus Elidure wouldtry to say, 'Nay, but we are happy too;' but generallyhe would only hang his head, for in truth it oftenseemed to him that in many things the pigmies werewiser than the men and women he had left.'We are going to build a house for you,' they told
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 17him the day after he came amongst them, and thatvery day a whole multitude of them began the work.Elidure would have helped them, but they rejected hisoffer of assistance with some scorn. 'What do youknow about building?' they said to him; and indeedhe had to confess that his knowledge of that art was verysmall, and that they with their tiny hands could do mostthings much more dexterously than he.So, without any aid from him, and in an amazinglyshort time, they constructed such a gigantic edifice thatElidure could really step in at the door of it withoutstooping his head, and lie down inside it at full length.They laughed with satisfaction and delight when thisgreat business was accomplished, and never got tiredafterwards of coming to visit him in his own house. Itwas such a pleasure to them that scores of them used tocome together; the king himself came almost every day;even Prince Phos came-though between Prince Phosand Elidure there was a little stiffness that did not wearoff for a good while-and, indeed, if he had chosen, hemight have done nothing but sit still and hold a levee ofpigmies from morning to night, and almost from nightC
"T8 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.to morning again. They were all the kindliest littlepeople too. Though a great monster like Elidure wasunquestionably rather a formidable guest, you wouldhave thought they thought it the most delightful thing inthe world to have him in their country, and to enjoy theprivilege of entertaining him, and providing the largequantity of food which he required. At first it was alittle trying to Elidure to find that he was always expectedto take his meals in public, with at least some hundredsof the curious little elves looking on, but after a time-especially when he saw how very much they enjoyed thesight-he got quite accustomed to their company, andonly laughed when some of the most inquisitive amongstthem would even come quite close to him, and perchupon his shoulder, or jog his elbow, or sit down in a circleround his plate. Perhaps, indeed, he felt when they wereall so kind to him that it was the least he could do toafford them some little amusement in return. 'I am sureI don't know what makes you all so good to me,' he wouldoften say to them, feeling at moments quite honestly (forhe was a simple, modest sort of lad) that he was reallyunworthy to be the object of such universal regard.
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 19Worthy or unworthy, however, the elves took an endlesspleasure in him, and he had but to show himself to them,or to do such simple things as walk, or run, or climb atree, or leap across a river, to make them clap theirtiny hands, and laugh with pure delight.Though all the pigmies, from the king downwards,were very kind to Elidure, and Elidure in return likedthem all, yet he had only one special friend-the king'sdaughter, little Zoa. From the very first Zoa and he hadtaken to one another. I should like to come and playwith you,' Zoa had said trustingly to him the first daythat he arrived, and on every day after he and she hadplayed together, and spent long hours in one another'scompany over their quiet games. For Elidure was verygentle, and, big as he was, the child liked to have himfor her playfellow. She was so little that he could almosthave taken her and crushed her in his hand, but yet hewas so tender over her that 'when she was with him shenever had a moment's fear. They used to have all kindsof games together. He would lie down on the grass inthe king's gardens, where they played the oftenest, andlet her walk all over him, helping her little steps to mountC 2
20 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.the hills and descend the valleys, laughing at her stum-bles, and picking her up after every fall, and lifting herhigh in the air, till she shouted aloud with pleasure.Then he would carry her often by the hour together,holding her at times upon his shoulder, at times nestled inhis arms, she chattering away to him always, sometimesgaily, sometimes seriously-telling him curious little wiseelfin stories, or talking baby nonsense to him; and shewould teach him games of which he had never heardbefore, and sing soft sweet little songs to him, and playdexterous tricks with golden balls that she tossed into theair. You care for gold up there in your foolish world,'she said to him once. We only care for it here to playwith it-so.' And then she flung up the bright little ballsabove her head; and sometimes when she threw them upshe would catch them again as they fell, and sometimeswould let them fall upon the ground and roll away. Atfirst when they rolled away Elidure used to look for themand try to find them again for her, but she only laughedat him when he did that. Why should you gather themup? I have plenty more of them,' she would always say.She used often to ask Elidure to tell stories to her,
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 2-1and would put hundreds of questions to him about theworld that he had left, and about his father and mother,and his little sister whom they used to carry about in longclothes. Zoa was never tired of making enquiries aboutthis baby sister, but yet sometimes when she talked ofher she used to grow sad. 'Some day you will want;to go back and play with her. You will not care toplay with me when your sister is old enough to runabout, and take your hand, and go out with you into,the fields.''Nay, I shall always want to play with you,' Elidurewould answer. 'You are so gentle and kind. I shallnever want any other playfellow than you.'Then Zoa would brighten up again, and steal close tohim, and stroke his hair and laugh, or lay her little cheek[7pon his hand. 'I hope you will remain a boy for along, long time. It is so nice to be a child, and to playthe whole day long,' she said to him once.And indeed to Elidure, too, it seemed very pleasantin this peaceful new world to play the whole day long.How much sweeter it was than learning Latin, andbeing whipped when his lessons were ill-said? He used
22 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.to tell the history of all those old troubles of his to Zoa,till the child's eyes would flash and fill with tears in herindignation and sorrow for him. If they beat you andwere cruel to you, you won't want to go back again toyour own world?' she would sometimes wistfully say tohim; and for a good while Elidure always answeredreadily, 'No, I don't want to go back again. I amhappier here a thousand times;' at which Zoa used tosmile and look glad.But yet presently, even though he was so happy here,the boy's thoughts began to go back, with a vague senseof yearning to some of the things in the life that he hadleft ; to the father who, though he had been a little strict,had still been kind to him; to the mother who had lovedhim so well, and whom he had loved.'I wonder if they were very sorry when I went away.I should so like to see them again, just for a little while,'he said to Zoa once.The child looked very sad.' I could let you go, only if you went you would nevercome back again, and I should miss you so,' she sorrow-fully replied.
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 23'Why do you think I would never come back again?I would come back gladly.'But she still only shook her head; and then, when hesaw that he made her so unhappy, he said no more thatday.From this time, however, the longing increased in himto return for a little while to his own home, and he beganto ask her to get the king's consent to let him go, andcontinued to beg her till she grew weary of refusinghim.'I will speak to my father for you, then,' she saidsadly to him at last one day. I wish you did not wantto go, for only trouble will come of it; but if you cannotbe content I will ask my father, and he will let you go.'And then she told the king what Elidure wanted.His majesty was very angry at first, knitted his brows,and declared that he would not hear of it, and that if Eli-dure had come to elfin land, in elfin land he must becontent to remain; but after a while, when he had hadhis anger out, then Zoa began to coax him ; and he wasso fond of her, and she coaxed him so prettily, that sheended by getting her own way. The king-though he
24 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.shrugged his shoulders, and said that he did not at allapprove of it-finally consented to let Elidure go hometo his father's house.' Only if he wants to come back again he must comeback in a single day,' said the king; and take care thathe takes nothing belonging to us away with him, nor tellsour secrets to anybody in the upper world.' So then Zoawarned Elidure to do neither of these things, and toldhim how he must come again to her quickly, or shenever should see him any more; and finally said 'Goodbye' to him, with her eyes full of tears.' We have been so happy all this time; you should nothave wanted to go away. When I am happy I neverwant any change to come, or any new thing,' she said tohim, and looked at him so sadly and reproachfully, thathe could have almost had it in his heart to say that hewould stay with her, and would not go back to earth atall.But yet to do this, after the king had given himleave to go, and the two little men who had first con-ducted him hither were waiting by his side to take himback again, would have been too foolish; so he gulped
THE STORY OF ELtDURE. 25down the feeling of remorse that had come to him, andcomforting himself with the thought of how very soon heshould come back again and play once more with Zoa,he told the two pigmies that he was ready, and they allset out upon their way.The little men led him back by the same secretpassage through which they had brought him, and in avery short space of time he found himself once more inthe upper world. With a curious feeling he rubbed hiseyes as he emerged into the clear full sunlight. Howterribly bright it shone! How large everything was!How familiar and yet how strange the whole place looked!Far away he could see one of the turrets of the monas-tery above the trees; nearer to him there was a curlingline of smoke rising from his own home.' I will run on and see my mother, and be back to yousoon,' he said to the little men. Will you wait for me ?Will you come back again if I call?''You will find us here,' they answered, 'after sunriseto-morrow morning. Take your departure now, andreturn true to your time.'So then Elidure, with his heart beating fast, set his face
26 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.homewards, and took his way over the hills he knew sowell.He did not know how long he had been away, butmonths at least must have elapsed. For it was nolonger autumn with ripe fruits on the trees, but the youngleaves of spring were bright and golden in the sunshine.Had all the winter passed over his head in that sweetquiet land where the seasons made no change? Hewent on fast-he almost ran. It was evening, and aboutthis hour, he thought, his mother used to sit beside hissister's little bed, and sing to her till her eyes closed. Ashe approached the house did he not now, indeed, heara sound of singing? He stood still and listened, andsomething rose up into his throat as he caught the tonesof the familiar voice. His mother was singing, but thesong had a sad sound; it ceased once, as if she wassighing while she sang. He stole unnoticed into thehouse, and crept softly up the stairs, and pushed asidethe curtain that hung across the doorway of his sister'slittle room-and then all at once the boy burst into akind of sob, and remembered nothing more till he foundhis arms clasped about his mother's neck.
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 27You may imagine how much they had to say to oneanother, and how they talked all through the livelongnight, sitting hand in hand with no others near them, forElidure's father was a soldier and was away from home;and in the house, except his mother and his baby sister,there were only two or three maids and serving-men, andan old nurse who had nursed Elidure when he was alittle child. All night they sat and talked, and the poormother told her boy how they had thought that he haddrowned himself in the river, and how his father and shehad mourned for him, and what she had suffered throughall the dreary winter months. For I knew that you hadbeen unhappy, my dear,' she said to him, and everystripe that they had given you seemed to have got burntinto my heart. But now that you have come back theyshall not beat you any more. Nobody shall ever beharsh or unkind to you again, my child, nor shall youever go back to the monks unless you like.'Elidure hung his head, and for a little while had notthe heart to tell her that he must return again to elfinland. But he was forced to confess this presently, and towithstand as well as he could all her reproaches and tears.
28 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.' I must go, for I have promised, but I will try to comeagain,' Elidure said. 'If I do not break my word Ithink they will let me come again, dear mother. And Iam very happy; they are all so good to me.' And thenhe told his mother all about the life he led, and how littleZoa loved to have him for her playfellow.It was a sad and yet a sweet long talk. 'You musttell nobody that I have come back, lest they should tryto keep me,' Elidure said, and so his mother promisedthat she would tell no one; and all the night theytalked, and then when morning came he rose up to leaveher.' The little men will be waiting for me, mother,' hesaid. I must not keep them, or they will be angry andnever let me come again;' and he kissed her, and lefther weeping, and went away.But he, though he wept too at parting from her, ranfast away across the hills; and when he saw the little menagain his heart leapt up with joy, and he laughed as hegreeted them; and as they went through the subterraneanway once more, it was as if at once he forgot his motherand all that he had left behind him; and everything he
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 29seemed to care for was the sweet placid land that he wasreturning to, and little Zoa with her gentle face.'Ah, you have come back You are good. I will trustyou now,' Zoa said to him as they met again, and joyfullyclapped her hands.After this time Elidure was allowed occasionally, whenhe pleaded for it, to go back to the upper world for a fewhours; and presently, when the elves had become quiteassured that he would not run away from them, they evendiscovered the secret of the subterranean way to him,and trusted him to go and come by it alone. But,though he was thus enabled almost at his will to see hisfather and mother, it was curious with what joy he alwaysreturned from these visits, and how, as time went on, hisheart clung closer and closer to the life of elfin land. Inthe world above there seemed so many sorrows; hismother's face looked often sad and wan; his father's talkwas about wars and strifes; even his little sister seemedto have her baby troubles, and wailed and sobbedsometimes pitifully enough. But here neither did menfight, nor did women and children weep. The placiddays followed one another undisturbed by turmoil or
30 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.grief. There was no wild merriment in the land, yet nosorrow either; only a composed and sweet contentment,without break or change. For they never knew sicknesshere, nor death.'Yes-up there in your world you die; that must beterrible,' Zoa said one day to him, and shudderinglynestled close up to his side. It must be this that makesyou all so sad. How can you care for anything, whenDeath can come to-day or to-morrow and take you allaway?'She asked him this, looking up to him with puzzledsolemn eyes. She used often to ask curious questions ofElidure, trying hard with her little elfin mind to under-stand the things he told her. How can you be happywhen you have to die?' she said; and then, on this dayhesitating and shyly, Elidure tried for the first time totell her how, for those whom Death took away, apartfrom their first world and beyond it, far away, there wasanother world where, if they had lived purely here, theyshould dwell and be happy for evermore. 'For there isa great King there,' Elidure said, who reigns above allthe earth, and loves us, and watches over us always, and
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 3twhen we die we go to Him where He sits upon His greatwhite throne; and there are angels singing for ever be-fore Him; such sweet songs, Zoa, sweeter even than thoseyou sing; sweeter than all the songs that were ever sungbefore, either on earth or in elfin land.'' I should like to hear them,' Zoa said.And then, after that day, the child never used to tireof asking him questions about those angels, and thedistant place they lived in, and what they did all day,and who the King was on His' great white throne. Andonce she said to him, Do you want to go there ?' andlaid her cheek upon his hand, and, for the first time heever saw her do it, began to weep. 'Some day, if youget tired of us, we shall not be able to make you stay;we shall have to let you go away,' she sadly said.But Elidure did not want to go away. It seemed tohim that if he could live on as he was living now forever, he should care for nothing more or nothing betterin all earth or all heaven. Was he not happy here thewhole day long ? His mother used to mourn over him,and hold him in her arms when he went to see her, andutter bitter reproaches against the elves who kept him
32 THE STORY OF ELIDTJRE.from her; but when she spoke harshly of them the bloodwould rush hotly into Elidure's face, for he lovedthe friendly little people who treated him so kindly.Gradually, as he lived with them, his heart got more andmore weaned from the common cares and interests ofthe upper world : the love of riches, the love of fame,the struggle amongst men for place and power, as hisfather sometimes talked about before him-these thingsseemed to him like childish follies; he would turn awayweary from hearing of them. Why should men fight so,and wear out their lives, when they might gain the peaceand rest of elfin land ?'How you labour here for gold Why, with us infairyland we only make gold into playthings,' he ex-claimed once, with a pitying laugh.' Eh, but they must be fine playthings, then,' his oldnurse replied. 'Wonderful fine playthings; I'd like tosee them.' And after this the old woman was for evertalking to him about the golden toys that Zoa had, andwhat a pity it was they could not get them here.She was a very old woman, who had lived in the house-hold all her life; and Elidure loved her, and she loved
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 33him as if he had been her own child. He had alwaysliked to be with her in former days, for she had a gift ofstory-telling, and ever since he could understand any-thing he had been accustomed to sit upon the groundbeside her, listening to her stories. She used to tellthem to him yet, but he cared for them less now than hehad done of old. He cared more now to talk to herof elfin land, and about his companion Zoa, and howhappily they spent the long calm days, playing andtalking, and never tiring of one another; and often hewould tell her of the clever things that Zoa could do,and specially of how she could take those golden balls,and toss them up one after the other in the air, so thatthey rose and fell and rose and fell again like a littleshower of golden stars.It was curious how much the old woman liked to hearof this trick. She would make Elidure tell her about itagain and again, and describe the balls, and how theylooked and shone.' And I wonder what should hinder you from bringinghome a handful of them in your pocket some day, dearie ?'she said coaxingly to him at last one afternoon. YouD
34 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.might just slip them in, and nobody would be the wiser,I should think.'But Elidure flushed up hotly when she said this.'I couldn't bring any home. It would be stealing,' hesaid.'And do you think 1'd ask you to steal?' cried theold woman indignantly. Stealing, do you call it, to pickup a bit of something that nobody cares for! Why, ifyou filled your pockets here with pebbles and carried themoff to Mistress Zoa, do you think we'd call that stealing?'And she looked so hurt and angry that Elidure couldonly beg her pardon, and say quite humbly that of coursehe knew she was the most honest woman in the world;but still the golden balls did not belong to him, andindeed he could not feel comfortable in taking them.The old woman said no more to him that day; butconstantly afterwards, whenever he returned home,she fell to talking to him again about the balls; andgradually she wearied him so, by coaxing him andbegging him incessantly to bring some home to her, thatat last after a long time he got wholly tired of refusingwhat she asked; and one day, at length, when he bade
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 35good bye to her, he promised faithfully he would bringher some' of the golden balls.That day, for the first time, he returned to elfin landwith a curiously heavy heart. He tried to persuadehimself that he had done nothing that was wrong, andthat there really could not be any harm, when the elvescared so little about gold, in giving away some of theirlittle balls; but yet, try as he would, he could not quiethis conscience, nor make himself feel at ease when hecame back within sight of little Zoa, and heard her callhim in her joyous voice, and saw her stretch out herwelcoming arms.All that evening he played with her, but he was nothappy in his play.' They have tired you up there. They have tired you,and I don't think you care for me,' Zoa said gravely tohim once.' I care for you more than for anything in all theworld,' Elidure said.Nevertheless Zoa did not smile, but only looked athim sadly and shook her head.'They have vexed you and made you sad,' she said.D 2
36 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.Why do you not stay with us ? We never vex you here.Will you stay now, and not go away again for a longlong time?''Indeed I would stay gladly,' he answered her, butI must go once more very soon, because I have pro-mised.'' If you have promised you must go, surely,' she replied.'But after that will you stay? Shall we play all daytogether then, and will you be content ?''Yes, I will be very content to stay with you,' heanswered. 'I want nothing so much as that; I shouldlike to stay just like this without any change, for ever.''That is good !' the child answered, and then gave alittle laugh, and began to play again; and Elidure, too,played with her; but yet, though he played he could notforget his promise, nor be happy any more because hehad made it.It troubled him so much that he thought, just to getit off his mind, that he would go the very next day, andtake his nurse the golden balls; and then he would notgo home again for ever so long, but would stay quietlywith Zoa, and not let himself be teased or tempted any
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 37more. 'Not that what I am going to do is really a wrongthing,' Elidure said to himself-for, naturally, he wastrying hard to persuade himself that it was not wrong-"only the elves are sometimes so particular that itmakes one uncomfortable; and so if it is to be done atall, I had better do it quickly and get it over.' Andaccordingly he resolved that early in the morning hewould put a dozen of the' little golden balls into hispocket, and run straight home with them, and be backagain almost before Zoa knew he had gone away. Hewould go so quickly, he thought; he could be back withZoa almost as soon as she was ready to play. He wentto sleep saying this to himself; and in the morning, assoon as ever it was light, he rose and went to the king'sgarden and picked up a dozen of the golden balls, which,indeed, were lying about upon the grass very nearly asthough they were as common as bits of pebble; andputting them in his pocket, away he went as fast as hislegs could go.He ran along the subterranean way faster and faster,and the further he ran the louder did his heart beat.Somehow, after a time, it seemed to him, in some strange
38 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.way, as if he was running a race. He almost thought heheard footsteps behind him; more than once he fanciedhe heard a shout; and yet it could not be so, for oncewhen he stopped and listened all was still, nor in the halflight could any one be seen. 'It is only fancy-there isno one there,' he said to himself, and took breath amoment, and then ran on again. Perhaps it was thenoise of the little balls jingling in his pockets ; perhapsit was some sound from the upper world that he hadheard.So he ran still on and on till he reached the furtherend of the subterranean passage, and emerged into thefull light of day; and then on again, faster still, he wentover the hills, through the meadows with the grass allwet with dew-on, without pause, and with his heartbeating now as if it would burst his breast. For oncemore in the broad sunlight he had looked behind him,and now he had seen that the fear he had had all alongwas true; the elves, with flying footsteps and threateningshouts, were pursuing him over hill and dale.What should he do? Should he turn back? Hethought, in his first terror and anguish, that he would
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 39throw himself down at their feet, and confess that he haddone wrong, and give them back their golden balls. Fora moment he paused; but the next, his shame over-whelmed him, and he felt as if he could not do it.Faster and faster he fled on. If he could but reach hisfather's door, and rush in, and close it against them,surely he should be safe, he thought.On like the wind he went, and quicker and quickerfollowed the tiny footsteps after him. He turned hishead once-the pigmies were but a stone's cast behindhim; a minute later, and they were not twenty paces off.One final effort now, to reach the door! He ran withhis last breath and reached it; but as his feet touchedthe threshold, invisible arms seized him from behindlike iron claws, and he fell prostrate. A mist came overhis senses, his eyes closed; and when he came to him-self again he was lying weak and faint and bruised uponhis mother's bed, with the two pockets that had heldthe golden balls empty, and turned inside out.Elidure turned his face to the wall, and wept for a longtime with passionate and bitter tears. It was in vainthat his mother tried to comfort him. They will never
40 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.let me go back to them; they will never let me livewith them any more,' was all he said. Now, when it wastoo late, it seemed to him that he had been mad to dowhat he had done. Had he been under a spell, that hehad acted so wickedly? Was that old woman a witch,that she had tempted him to do this evil thing?For days the boy could hardly be got to lift his head,or eat, or speak. His mother in her heart was glad, forshe said to herself 'Now I shall have my child again;'but Elidure's spirits seemed dead within him; he couldnot return her caresses; he could not smile when hislittle sister laughed and sang. He wanted Zoa back,and the little elves who had been so friendly to him, andthe land below with its peaceful light, and the quiet lifewhere no sorrow came.After many days of suffering, though he said to himself'If I go back they will kill me in their anger,' unableto rest, he stole away one morning from his father's house,and took the way that led to the secret passage into theunder world. But when he came to the well-knownplace he could not find the entrance, though he searchedfor it hour after hour. There was no opening anywhere,I
THE STORY OF ELIDURE. 41no sign of any elfin road. Desolate and broken-hearted, he flung himself down upon the ground, and laythere till night came.Day after day and week after week he came back, andlying with his face upon the grass, cried to the friendshe had offended to pardon him and take him back, andto Zoa to let him come and play with her once more :but all in vain. There was no answer to his cries; nosign of the little men who had been once so kind tohim : the closed entrance never re-opened, and throughall the years that he afterwards lived on earth Elidurenever saw the face of little Zoa again.He grew to be a man, and then lived on and on till hewas very old. He became a monk in that monastery inthe valley, and led a pious life, doing good to manypeople, and spending much time in prayer. But throughhis whole life it was always said there remained astrange kind of cloud upon him, and he used to lookas one who saw visions or spent long days in dreams.Sometimes, to a few people, he would tell the story ofthe years that he had passed in elfin land; but as hegrew older he became fonder of silence than of speech,
42 THE STORY OF ELIDURE.and, when he was not telling his beads, loved best to siton the sunny seat beneath the monastery wall, with hisdim eyes fixed on the far-off hills.'My earthly delight came thence,' he said once to oneof the monks who had come and sat down beside him.And, after a little silence-' She must have been angrywith me once, but I think she has forgiven me now.God has forgiven me too, I know. I have yearnedfor her and have not found her; but the end of life isnear at last, and after this world there comes another-and God is great.'
43THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.SPEHIND the ramparts and battlements of theas! old chateau of Argouges there lived a goodr knight, who had fought in the Crusades.He was a member of a noble family, so noble that theknight would have thought he had failed in the duty heowed to his dead ancestors who slept under the pave-ment of the little church hard by, as well as to thechildren who might yet be born and live to bless him,if he had not gone to the Holy Land to fight for the re-covery of the sepulchre of our Lord. He had thereforequitted his chateau and his farm-lands, his servants, andhis beloved forests, leaving his vassals as well as hisrevenue in the hands of his mother, the lady of Argouges.She was a daughter of the house of Balleroy, and as
44 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.great a lady as ever lived. Every morning, after the de-parture of her son, she caused two wax tapers, each theweight of a man, to be lighted before the altar of theHoly Virgin. Her chaplain grew quite rich from the saleof so many pounds of wax; for he was very careful toput out the tapers as soon as the devotions of thelady were finished. Meanwhile the poor serfs of thedomain toiled and groaned in the fields, mercilesslyoppressed by the steward. Poor man, in one sense hecould not do otherwise; for had he not to provide forthe equipment of the lord of Argouges when he went tothe Holy Land? Besides, there was the wax merchant'sbill to pay every month. 'Our Blessed Lady ought tobe weary of seeing so many tapers burnt, when they aredrawn from the blood of the poor,' said the boldestof the peasants. But their more pious wives bade themhold their tongues. Let us pray the Holy Virgin to sendback our good knight, and then his mother will not needto bur any more tapers before the altar.'Alas the lady died before her son returned. For twoyears she had received no news of him, and had in vaininterrogated all the pilgrims who passed the chateau,
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 45entertaining them hospitably and listening eagerly to theirstories, true or false. But in spite of all her questionsnot one of them could tell her anything of the lost knight'sfate. One pilgrim returning from Joppa, without beingable to reach Jerusalem, then in the hands of the powerfulSaladin, owned one day that he had heard of a braveand noble Norman, a prisoner in a dungeon not far fromJoppa, who perhaps, might be the knight of Argouges.But the mother rose with indignation from the largecarved wood chair which she occupied within the spaciousingle or fireplace.' Denis d'Argouges is not a prisoner like a rat in atrap,' said she. 'Either he is still fighting against theinfidel, or he is dead.'The pilgrim retired in silence; but the lady's heartwas broken. To suffer so much, and suffer ingloriously,without hearing whether her son lived or died, wastoo much for her fortitude. One morning the impatientchaplain observed that her prayers were greatly prolonged ;the large tapers were half burnt out, and the ladystill knelt before them. He gently pushed the cushionon which she knelt with his foot, and she fell forward on
46 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.the steps of the altar. Death had overtaken ter whilepraying for her son.All the vassals came to see her lying in state in thechurch, surrounded by the monks of the monastery whichshe had founded on her estate.' She is a saint in heaven,' whispered they, making thesign of the cross; let us hope she will pray for us as sheprayed on earth for the good knight our lord.'God had been merciful to the noble lady in taking herto her rest: her maternal pride and her haughty confi-dence had equally misled her. Her son, the lord ofArgouges, whose deeds she expected would equal theexploits of Tancred or of Godfrey of Bouillon, was amiserable captive in the castle of an Emir, without havingfought at all. He was the prisoner of an infidel, andhad, moreover, yielded to another temptation worse thancowardice-he was in love with an infidel lady. Thedaughter of the Emir, touched by pity for his sufferings,had fallen desperately in love with the Norman knight.Although she could not speak the French tongue, she,in spite of the women and the slaves who guarded her,succeeded in finding her way to the dungeon and in
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 47making the prisoner understand her. She entreated, shepromised; and the Christian, regardless of his baptism,allowed himself to be persuaded to fly-ingloriously, igno-miniously, as no good knight should. In a voice assweet as the murmur of clear water over pebbles, thelady unfolded her projects and her hopes. 'But,' saidshe, in conclusion-and the Norman with astonishmentsaw her tremble in every limb-' when we are married,take care never to speak before me of death, or somegreat misfortune will befall us.'The knight did not comprehend all the lady's meaning;but in the imprecations of the infidels on the battle-fieldhe had often heard the word death; and as he saw theterror depicted on the face of the Emir's daughter, hepressed her in his arms and promised all she desired.The next day the lovers fled towards Joppa, borne byhorses swifter than the wind. The heaps of gold whichthe princess carried with her did not impede their pro-gress. They found it easy to obtain a ship returning toEurope. Many pilgrims, tired of the vain results of theefforts of the Christians to reach Jerusalem, were await-ing the return of Melek Rik, as the infidels called the
48 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.English king, Richard Coeur de Lion. Exaggeratedhopes were founded on his courage and zeal. But 'whilethe brave king languished unknown in a German castle,the hopes of the Crusaders left in the Holy Landevery day diminished; Genoese and Venetian vesselsquitted Joppa continually, bearing away sick and woundedknights and squires, who broke their vows that theymight return to their own country.Hidden on board the French knight's ship remainedthe infidel princess.. No man had ever seen her withouther veil, except it might be when a puff of wind had blownthe light tissue aside. The sailors then saw two greatblack eyes, shining so brilliantly that they crossed them-selves, whispering, The lord of Argouges is taking homea fairy! She has bewitched him. May God keep usfrom harm !'But the favourable wind never ceased to blow for asingle minute; the ship glided rapidly over the waves.If the sailors gave a thought to the enchantments of thelady, their terror was mingled with satisfaction. They hadnever made so prosperous a voyage-the coast of Francewas in sight already.
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 49Denis d'Argouges entertained no suspicion regardingthe mysterious nature of his wife's gifts. Every dayhe was more in love with her; more enchanted with herbeauty, wit, and grace. He had taught her to speakNorman, and the lady now only employed the softaccents of her native tongue to sing to her husband inthe evening.When he took her in his arms to lift her from herhorse at the door of the old seignorial castle, his eyesflashed with pride to think how lovely she was. Hewithdrew the veil she still wore, saying, 'In this countrythe women uncover their faces, my beauty 1' and hewatched with delight his dazzled vassals admiring thedelicate shape, the refined features, and the sparklingeyes, of the stranger he had brought home.The bride turned gracefully, and made a sign of wel-come to all these peasants-a welcome, however, in whichthere was mingled not a little fear. Then she took herhusband's arm again, and they entered the castle. Thevassals remained at the door, hoping the lady would re-appear, but the steward presently came and dispersedthem somewhat roughly. Two women alone, of all theE
50 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.crowd, lingered in the great court. One of them was oldMarie, who had carried the knight in her arms when hewas a little baby, and been through his childhood hisfaithful nurse; she was pale, and her hands trembled onher stick. Beside her stood a young girl, large, strong,and bold looking, with flaxen hair, and a resolute voice.The old woman was silent, but the young one spoke:' Say to the lady,' said she, that I will come to-morrow tospeak to her, as I know she wants a waiting-woman.'The steward smiled scornfully. He had already des-tined his daughter, the pretty Alienor, for the post towhich the big Manou aspired; but the latter quietlyrepeated what she had said, and left the courtyard ofthe chateau with Marie, turning round as she wentto look at the light of the large fires burning in thekitchen. But the old nurse wept, and devoutly told herbeads.The steward had presumed too much on his positionin the castle, and on the influence be formerly exercisedover his master. When he presented himself withAlienor at the door of the lady's apartment, it was openedby big Manou. She did not smile as her adversary had
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 51done the day before, but a flash of triumph lighted upher pale blue eyes. The steward, vexed and confused,retired without making any enquiry, or even presentinghis daughter to the lady of Argouges.Alienor went away the next day to visit one of heraunts in the convent of Bayeux, and Manou remained solemistress of the field, jealously watched by the steward,whom she had made her enemy the first hour she set footin the castle.From that time no one ever saw the lady without im-mediately meeting the big Manou. The servants jokedabout this continual companionship between the mistressand maid, and wondered if the knight's wife preferredManou's company even to her husband's.The oriental princess spoke little, and her maid less,outside; but inquisitive people who listened at theirdoor distinctly caught imperious tones, clearly those ofManou, and retired surprised and puzzled, withoutdaring to utter their conjectures.The lady and her maid were never separated duringthe day and at night Manou slept in a room adjoiningthat of her mistress. But the connection between themE 2
52 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.seemed more like that of a prisoner and her jailer than arich and beautiful young lady and her poor ignorantservant, who had no beauty at all.The steward tried in vain to penetrate this mystery.He had enough to do in trying to. prevent another mis-fortune, the bare thought of which filled him with ex-ceeding grief.The only one in the chateau who liked big Manouwas his own scn-the handsome, good, and intelligentyoung Yves, whom the father had destined to succeedhim in his office, to the great comfort of the vassals ofArgouges.' Yves is bewitched,' said his father, mournfully. Ay,just as much as our mistress is, only he loves this witchwith yellow hair; and, if I am not deceived, the ladyof Argouges both hates and fears her.'Every day Manou left her captive mistress for a shorttime and glided into the garden, running like a harebetween the rows of trees, without ever crushing her beau-tiful dress or soiling the dainty shoes she chose to wearin imitation of her mistress. And every day, whateverthe hour might be, she found the steward's son waiting
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 53for her. His father wanted to send him to a distance tostay with some relations; but Yves, usually very submis-sive, refused to go. Father, I cannot quit this place,'was all he said, and neither entreaties nor anger couldextract a word more from him.For a few days the steward had hoped that a newinterest was about to distract his son from the enthral-ment which attached him to the steps of the waiting-maid.The gamekeeper of the forest came one day to thechateau, and related that a large dog, of an extraordinaryshape and colour, was every night chasing the stags, andhad even attacked the wild boars, which it roused fromtheir lairs, and made fly before it wild with terror.The keepers had pursued this creature for a week withoutcatching it. It had several times passed in front of theirambuscades, but it ran so swiftly, and its movementswere so unexpected, that neither stick nor arrow had beenable to reach it. Still, such was its fierceness, that thewild deer were beginning to desert the forest, and to goto the neighboring woods.The keeper's story aroused young Yves from the torpor
54 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.in which he was always plunged-when not in the pre-sence of his beloved one. He made an appointmentwith the keepers, and promised to meet them in theforest that same night.At midnight, by the light of the moon, when thewatchers were in their hiding-place, the dog appearedpursuing a deer, which was flying in terror. Other kindsof game started out from their lairs mad with fear; butthe dog ran on, barking incessantly, not biting or attack-ing the timid creatures it was pursuing, but simplyfollowing-neither stopping or turning round, and leap-ing over every obstacle. Presently it reached a gladewhere Yves and the chief gamekeeper lay in ambush.The two men bounded into the open space, bow inSand. For an instant the dog stopped, and looked atYves with an expression of amazement. This pausesufficed. The forester drew his bow, and his arrowpierced the creature's shoulder. With a long, almosthuman cry, it dropped, and disappeared like a flashof lightning.Yves remained in his place, petrified with fear and as-tonishment. His trembling hands could no longer hold
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 55his bow; he staggered like a drunken man, and fell tothe ground.With great difficulty they took him back to the chateau.Proud as they were of having succeeded in wounding thedetested dog, they were uneasy and alarmed at thesudden illness of the young man. 'That wicked beasthas cast an evil eye on him,' said they.It was indeed true. Yves could not rest in his bed, sodisturbed was he by foolish doubts and wild imaginations.When the mysterious dog looked at him, he fancied inits great reproachful eye he recognized eyes that heloved.When day came and relieved him of these distressingfancies, he learned from the lady's servants that her maidwas in bed-ill, they supposed, for no one had everpenetrated to her room-and she had sent her excusesto her mistress without opening her door.Two days Manou was absent, and when she re-appeared was very pale. Yves met her in a corridor,and read reproach in her eyes, but she would not speakto him; and she did not come any more to the garden,where the steward's son waited for her in vain.
56 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.Meanwhile the affairs of the lord of Argouges pros-pered in all directions; his land was covered with therichest crops ; in all his numerous flocks not a beast fellill; several estates had come to him by inheritance.'Certainly the lady is good and pious, and draws onhim heaven's blessing,' said the people round about.'Yet she never comes to church, and says her prayers inher room. And some declare she is an infidel, and hasnever been baptised.''That is impossible,' replied the old women. 'Ourgood Saint Michael has always blessed the lords ofArgouges, and would not let a son of the house marryan infidel.'Besides, the lady's two sons, handsome and strong astheir father, had both been taken to church from theirbirth. Their mother seemed very fond of them, but shedid not nurse them herself, and she had often been seenweeping beside their cradle.After a time the mysterious dog again re-appeared inthe forest. It was in the month of May; the newleaves covered the trees with a rich verdure. The apple-trees were pink with blossoms when the lord of Argouges
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 57announced his intention of going on a pilgrimage to theconvent founded by his mother, and of taking his twosons to pray at her tomb. Their own mother had been illfor several days, and their father had been heard to raisehis voice angrily to his wife when alone with her inher room.She was to accompany the party half way, and whenthe horses were led into the court the knight was stillwaiting for his wife. She appeared at length, so palethat she seemed scarcely able to support herself, but sherefused the hand that Manou offered her, and came downthe rough stone stairs alone. The lord of Argouges, whohad chafed much at her delay, was already in his saddle.'By my Patron St. Denis,' said he sharply to his wife,' such a lazy woman as you would be a good personto send for Death! You would not fetch him in ahurry.'While he yet spoke, the lady, uttering a feeble cry,fell down on the door-steps. Her servants, hastening toraise her, recoiled in terror. There was nothing buther clothes-the gown, the embroidered mantle, thelong veil. The lady herself had disappeared.
58 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.'She warned me of this' murmured the knight, ashe sprang from his horse. She was a witch,' whis-pered the attendants. 'Everybody knows that witchescannot bear to hear the word death, because theyare condemned to live for ever, without the hope ofsalvation.'All shrank away in horror, allowing the rich clothesto lie where they fell. Not the poorest, not thosemost greedy of gain, would have thought of touchingthem.Manou had disappeared at the same time as hermistress.On that night the steward was himself in the forestwith the hunters. The incoherent words of his son, anda sort of prophetic instinct of his own, led him to connecthis sorrows with the dog's nocturnal appearances in thewood. He had once been a great sportsman; and hisbow, which he had unhooked from the walls with a sigh,still bent under his strong hands. The forest resoundedwith mournful cries; it seemed as if all the demonshad joined with the mysterious dog to chase the timidgame. Everywhere the frightened deer, the hares, the
THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES. 59rabbits, even the wild boars, rushed out, striking them-selves against the trunks of the trees in their terrifiedflight.The steward had been some time waiting. When thedog at length appeared, more furious and eager for pur-suit than ever, an arrow was shot from the faithful bow,and the dog fell. That instant-oh strange mystery !-not a dog, but a woman, fell to the ground, apparentlyin the agonies of death. It was Manou. She lay amoment at the feet of the steward, and then vanished-to be seen no more for ever.People said that the two witches-mistress and maid,the latter being the more powerful of the two-had thusbeen punished together. But people said many untrueand cruel things then-as they do even now. The realtruth nobody ever knew.Yves was cured of his love, but fell a prey to remorsefor having loved a wicked woman. He entered a monas-tery. The children of the lady of Argouges grew upwithout knowing the name and history of their mother,and the only traces remaining of the enchantment whichonce surrounded the chateau of Argouges are to be
60 THE WITCH OF ARGOUGES.seen in the gradual ruin which has little by littleextinguished their once powerful family. The tradition ofthis witch-ancestress is, however, still preserved by thecurious motto they bear on their arms-' A la Faye.'
FANCHOMICK'S FAIR Y GIFTS.- ARBAIK was a rich old woman of Brittany.She had cows and sheep, fields to plough,and corn to thresh. But she was a miser;and, because she was afraid of being robbed, would neverhave a servant of any kind to sleep under her roof.Every evening the tired labourers who had been workingfor her went home to their cottages with their implementson their shoulders, and Barbaik remained alone in thehouse with her niece Fanchomick.Poor Fanchomick had little rest. Her aunt did noteven allow her time to arrange her hair, and sew bowson her dress like other girls. After working hours shewas kept up till midnight churning the day's milk; andshe hardly got anything to eat, the thickest soup and
62 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.the best wheaten pancakes being reserved for thelabourers, whose food was given as part of their wages.The worst of everything sufficed for the orphan whomBarbaik had received into her house against her will, andfrom fear lest the whole parish should rise up against herif she allowed her own flesh and blood to be dependenton charity. Fanchomick often wept as she milked hercows.' I wish I were dead,' said she. I am sure my auntmust have been baptized with the water meant for boys,for she has a beard like a man, and there is not sounkind a creature on all the country side.'As time advanced Barbaik did not grow less unkind,but more, and continued to make Fanchomick workbeyond her strength. But after a while the poor girl nolonger wept; she sometimes even sang at her work, andher step quickened when she returned from the fields withher pail on her head, though alas! she often carried it socarelessly that the branches of the trees dipped into themilk; for, at the corner of the old kiln, the labourerSteven was waiting for her. Fanchomick now foundtime to tie her hair with bright ribbons, but she hid themwhen she returned to the house; for Barbaik would not
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 63have failed to enquire whence she got such adornments;and the poor girl would not have dared to say thatSteven had brought her the rose-coloured bow, thecopper ring, and the silver cross, from the Midsummerfair in the Pays de Vennes.Steven was strong and handsome, as well as clever;not that he could read books, but he had been broughtup by an old priest, who had told him the history of thecreation of the world and of the coming of the Sonof God on earth. From his cradle his mother hadmade him familiar with the legends of Brittany, and herepeated them to Fanchomick while they sat hiddenbehind the old wall. She loved also to hear him sing-The heart thou gavest me, O my love,I have taken so close to mine;That now I cannot tell which it is,My heart, or thine.But once, while Steven sang in a voice so low as to beaudible only by his beloved, the hard tones of the oldmistress were heard in the distance.'Idle Fanchomick! What are you doing in themeadow? The lambs are at the door, and want to betaken to their mothers.'
64 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.And Fanchomick, trembling, took up her milk-pail andran away, without daring to look behind her.One morning she was washing at the fountain. Heraunt had awakened her before sunrise; the rosy tints ofdawn scarcely coloured the clouds floating in the sky;the grass was still wet with dew, the little birds wereasleep in their nests; and Fanchomick sadly thought thatat the accustomed hour Steven would wait for her behindthe old wall in vain. The bundle of linen was so largethat the young girl's arms ached before she had washedthe half of it. If there is little, she will do no morethan that little, and if there is much she will be "obligedto do it,' said the aunt, and had doubled the task.Suddenly, as Fanchomick, resting her tired hands aminute on the heavy beetle used for washing, raised hereyes and looked about, she saw before her an old woman,with a wallet on her shoulder, leaning on a stick. Herfeet were wet with dew, her gray hair had escaped fromher cap, and she seemed far too old and feeble to bethus wandering about alone. Fanchomick rose, droppingthe sheet she had just washed.'Sit down, mother,' said she, pushing her bundle of drylinen towards the old woman. 'It does not seem right
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 65that those with grey hair and trembling steps should beout so early in the morning.'' Alas my daughter,' said the beggar, dropping heavilyon the improvised seat; 'when one has neither child tosupport one nor roof to shelter one, one must trust inGod and beg one's bread.'Two little tears trembled on the eye-lashes of the oldwoman, but did not fall. For those who have grown soold as to lose all natural ties, the fountain of tears isdried up, and they seldom weep.Fanchomick searched in her basket for a piece of blackbread-all her aunt had given her-which she had rubbedover with bacon, that she might not need to return to thehouse to breakfast.' Eat, mother,' said she, offering the bread to the beggar.'I have no appetite this morning. I am more disposedto cry than eat,' added she, in a low tone, for Steven issure to be angry with me.'The old woman looked at Fanchomick as she brokethe bread.' Fasting is good for the body, and charity refreshes thesoul,' said she in an under tone; 'but a young girl's tearsF
66 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.do not flow for nothing. Why are you heavy-hearted, mychild ?'' I shall not see Steven to-day,' sobbed Fanchomick.Barbaik was known for ten miles round, so that thebeggar had no need to ask Fanchomick why she was sooverwhelmed with work that she had not an instant togive to her lover. She took a large pin out of thebody of her gown.'Here,' said she, 'when you put this pin into yourneck-handkerchief, your aunt will suddenly be seized witha desire to count her cabbages in the garden, and youmay talk at your ease to Steven without fearing that shewill call you. She will only tire of counting when youtake out the pin.'Fanchomick's spirit rose: she sat thinking pleasantthoughts; till, waking up, she found that the old womanhad eaten her bread and had slowly gone on her way.' Kind soul!' said the girl; and immediately began to ruband beat with so much zeal that the heap of dirty linenlessened under her hands, as if by magic.At noon, when the labourers were at table eating theirblack bread and haricot soup in silence, Barbaik, who
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 67from the far end of the table counted every piece ofbread and every glass of cider they took, suddenly roseand went out by the back door of the farm-house.The men raised their eyes in astonishment; they werenot accustomed to be left thus to themselves, free to eatas much as ever they liked.'Is the mistress ill? said the tailor. He was at thefarm that day, mending clothes which were so very oldthat the fabric would not bear the needle.No one answered. The door opened softly, andFanchomick appeared tottering under her load. Theheavy wet sheets were thrown across her neck andshoulders. She raised her head, and cast a rapid glanceround the room.' Your aunt is not here,' said two or three of the menat the same time. 'She went out just now into thegarden, as if the devil himself had carried her off.'Fauchomick reddened violently, and put her hand toher kerchief; the pin was there, hidden in the folds. Shethen hastily put down the linen and went out.Barbaik was counting her cabbages. She went fromone bed to another, making her calculations over andF 2
68 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.over again, feeling the leaves and adjusting the stalks.There was no fear of her disturbing Fanchomick andSteven, who talked comfortably behind the brick-kiln fora good hour or more.Henceforth the lovers met morning, noon, and night,without dread of being surprised. The power of the pinwas irresistible. But if a secret spell drew the old womanto the garden, the same magic worked different ways.The young peasant was no longer drawn to Fanchomickby the same attraction as of old. Barbaik's niece wasnot particularly pretty or nicely dressed, and Steven hadat first made love to her just to vex his mistress. Thepoor girl listened to his soft words affectionately; butwhen they ceased to be tender, when at length he grewalmost silent or cross, she raised her sad eyes to him andsometimes wept, but never complained. After a littlewhile Steven was no longer punctual at the place ofmeeting, and Fanchomick turned away her head whenshe passed the old wall in coming home from work.Nobody was waiting for her now.One day the girl was again at the fountain. She fellon her knees at the edge of the water, and wept so
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 69bitterly that she did not hear the sound of steps. All atonce a hand was laid on her shoulder, and the old beggarsaid in her ear,'Why do you cry, my child, when you are young andcan see your lover 1'' For me to see him he must come to see me,' answeredFanchomick, 'and to keep him when he is come, onemust be as clever as he is.'The old woman smiled sadly.'Are not your blue eyes enough to keep him?' saidshe in a low tone. Wait a moment;' and she blew inthe air, and a little white feather floated in an instantabove the head of the young girl and rested on her hair,as if a bird had dropped it from its wing.' You will now have enough wit to please all the wisemen in the world.'Fanchomick shook her head gaily, while a new intel-ligence lighted up her eyes.' I only want to please one peasant lad,' said she,softly.That evening, when Steven almost by chance ap-peared at the rendezvous, where Fanchomick never
70 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.failed to come, he was in no hurry to go away. He hadnever in all his life been so much amused.' I had no idea a woman could be so clever,' said he tohimself when he returned home to his cottage and re-membered the touching stories, the quick-witted speeches,and the gay songs of Fanchomick.For some time the girl's happiness knew no bounds.She had regained her lover, and was never tiredof seeing in his eyes the admiration she awakened.Formerly it used to be she who stood astonished at hiswit and knowledge, now it was Steven's turn to be as-tonished at hers.But time passed on, meeting succeeded meeting, andSteven began to arrive later and to go away sooner thanformerly. Then he grew tired of being amused; he re-gretted the time when he had all the talk to himself, andFanchomick listened to him in mute delight. 'It will beno easy matter to get oneself obeyed by such a cleverwife,' thought he ; she will always have the last word,and one can never be in the right with her.'Then came another change. Fanchomick did notalways take the feather from her hair or the pin from her
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 71kerchief when she left Steven. While the aunt countedher cabbages the niece entertained the labourers, thetailor, even the curd himself, with jokes, repartees, andconversation, so playful and so witty, that she was thewonder of all the parish.'What herb has Fanchomick stepped on?' said theyoung men, piqued at being beaten in brilliant talk.'Formerly she had not a word to throw to a dog, andnow no one can ever have the last word when she ispresent.'In the meantime Steven had learned the road to theCoudiaces' farm, where the pretty Lisette listened to himwith downcast eyes, not exactly answering to his pro-posals, but certainly not rejecting them.Fanchomick wept in secret. Neither the feather inher hair or the liberty the pin secured her, consoled herfor Steven's coldness.The leaves which were budding on the trees the firsttime the young girl saw the old woman at the fountainhad faded under the August sun when the beggar-womanagain appeared. This time it was not by the stream, butin the barn. Barbaik had been there the day before to
72 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.see if everything was ready for the harvest, and to hergreat disgust had found that the stones were everywheredisplaced, and the floor so rough that the roller wouldjolt over the inequalities of the ground, and that a newthreshing-floor must be made.1 This was the last thingshe wanted; for though the neighbours would make thefloor for her, and bring clay and water with them intheir carts, yet she would have to provide food for allwho came, besides broaching a cask of cider, and fur-nishing ribbons for the fetes. The thought of all thisoutlay made Barbaik miserable. But how could shehelp it?'Go to the barn,' said she to her niece. 'Take ahammer with you, and try if you cannot make thestones go in. I will not send a man, because he wouldonly do his best to displace them, to make sure of thefete.'Barbaik was in the habit of scolding Fanchomick in-cessantly; but nevertheless she trusted her. Poor oldwoman she little knew how many times a day her niece' The inauguration of a new threshing-floor is the occasion of agreat f6te in Brittany.
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 73sent her to count her cabbages, to the great delay of herwork.Fanchomick, out of breath, was leaning on her heavyhammer. The feather was not in her hair, but her heartneeded no supernatural light to make her aware thatoftentimes Steven was quite as much repelled as attractedby her wit.' If the beggar had made me beautiful instead of clever,Steven never would have got tired of looking at me,'said she.While she was speaking the old woman appeared be-fore her, poorly clothed, and with her hair in disorder asusual. But Fanchomick now knew her magic power,and trembled before her, not daring to offer her blackbread. From the depths of the pocket of a ragged petti-coat the old woman drew a gold chain, worn with ageand blackened with smoke, which she threw over theyoung girl's neck. Be beautiful!' said she, and dis-appeared.Fanchomick had purposely not put either the featherin her hair or the pin in her kerchief till Steven was freeto talk to her. But she could not wait an instant to
74 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.make sure that she had now the gift of beauty. Leavingher hammer on the floor of the barn, she ran to theneighboring stream and bent over the clear water.It was truly herself-Fanchomick, and no one else-but her eyes were larger without having lost any of theircaressing sweetness; her black eyelashes rested on cheeksthat were rosy without being red; her turn-up nose hadbecome more finely cut; her teeth were much whiter thanbefore, and her lips as red as two cherries. Her hair,which had escaped from her cap, lay in thick masses onher shoulders, soft and bright as silk. Fanchomickflushed with pleasure as she saw herself; but happythough she was while fastening up her hair, she put thefeather in it, and sought for her pin; for she felt that shemust employ all the power she had to keep-perhaps,alas to regain-Steven's heart.It was evening when she returned to the farm, and themen had gone home to their cottages. But Steven wasnot waiting at the old wall. He was hastening to theCoudiaces' farm, where Lisette's father had invited him tosupper. He felt more confident than usual of his wel-come, for Barbaik had made up her mind, and had
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 75announced the new threshing-floor for the followingFriday.Lisette's pretty face beamed with pleasure on hearingthis news.'Will you not try to win the ribbons?' said she to him,in a low voice.' If I get them they shall be for you,' said the gallantpeasant, who had quite forgotten Fanchomick.The next day they were very busy at the farm. Bar-baik and her niece kneaded the bread and prepared thecakes. The flitches of bacon were unhooked from thechimney, eggs and butter in large quantities weregathered on the sideboard. The men brought clay, anddrew water in barrels, which they placed round the barn.More than one of them, as he came and went, remarkedwith surprise Fanchomick's blushing face as she bentover the kneading-trough.'I never expected the orphan would grow so pretty,'said the old priest. Her face seems lighted up as if bya miracle.'Steven was not there. He had promised to stay atthe Coudiaces' farm to fill the carts with the clay that
76 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.Lisette's father intended to take to Barbaik's threshing-floor.It was midnight; the labourers had long left the fields.The sheep were asleep, and the cows were in the sheds.No one could tell if anybody was awake at Barbaik's, forthe shutters were carefully closed.' The night wanderers need not see through the windowwhen I count my skeins of yarn,' said the old miser. Asuppressed murmur was, however, audible around thedwelling ; the sounds of wheels and of horses' feet brokethe. silence of the night. Numerous carts laden with clay,and barrels of water, were arranged outside the barn.The drivers tied up their horses and went to sleep on thegrass. The knot of blue ribbons fastened to the stake inthe middle of the barn was to belong by right to the firstcomer. They were all waiting for the church clock tostrike midnight. The last stroke had scarcely soundedwhen Steven appeared leading the cart of the Coudiaces;and he wore the ribbons in the button-hole of his largeembroidered vest when Lisette arrived at the dawn of dayto take part in the fete.All the carts had deposited their loads. The clay and
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 77water were mixed; and the horses, decked with bright-coloured bows, had trod down the mortar which the menwere levelling with their spades.The women arrived in crowds from the surroundingfarms and cottages. They were chiefly young girls, themothers being generally detained at home by familyduties. Lisette looked charming in her tight-fitting blackjacket, her fair hair braided under her cap, and her goldcross hung round her neck on a violet-coloured velvet.She came, serene and confident, certain of being pro-claimed by universal assent queen of the new barn, andhappy in the thought of being seated in the chair andplaced on the rustic throne by Steven's strong arm. Forshe knew well that for two miles round there was no girlthat could compare with her in beauty.' It is the blessed Virgin Mary who has made me so,'she replied, modestly, to the compliments paid to her.'I cannot help it.'Steven was at the head of the young men who wereleading dame Barbaik's horses.. He stopped them whenLisette entered the barn, and advanced towards her.But behind her suddenly appeared Fanchomick, her eyes
78 FANCHOMICK'S FAIR' GIFTS.bright with a new light. Anger, tenderness, and jealousy,had heightened the poor forsaken girl's beauty in astrange way. She looked at Steven, and an irresistibleattraction drew him towards her. Turning away fromLisette, who was smiling in her anticipated triumph, heraised Fanchomick in his arms, exclaiming, Fanchomickis beyond question the most beautiful!'Nobody present was disposed to contradict him.Lisette herself beheld the charms of her rival with aston-ishment.'What fairy has made her like this?' was all the girlsaid, and that to herself. 'A week ago Fanchomick wasquite ugly.'The sports began the young men succeeded eachother on the floor and wrestled with great spirit, eachstraining every nerve to overthrow his adversary. TwiceSteven was victorous, and twice he brought the fruits ofhis victory to Fanchomick's feet.The girl's triumph was complete. It surpassed, indeed,not only her hopes, but her desires.Since the beggar-woman had thrown the gold chain onher neck, all the young men had followed her admiringly.
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 79A few days, and it was not Steven alone who waited forher at the corner of the old wall. The farm was perfectlyhaunted by Fanchomick's suitors, and Barbaik countedon her fingers the offers that had been made her. Shehad shaken her head at the pretensions of many, but theold woman's greedy eves sparked with joy at the pro-posals of the miller of Guebrand. People said he wasso rich that he could grind gold instead of corn in hismill, if he liked, and he only carried on his businessbecause he was as avaricious as Barbaik herself. StillFanchomick remained firm: neither the miller nor anyof his rivals could obtain a look from her; all her heartbelonged to Steven. But Steven was proud and poor,and held back; he would not court a woman who wassought by richer people than himself.Fanchomick was so clever that nobody ever wearied ofher company; and she was lovely enough to charm evenbabies in their cradles. But she was poor and an orphan,and she could not marry the man she loved best. Ifonly I were rich !' sighed she at last, with tears in hereyes, one day when Steven had not been at the farm fora week. As she wept, her tears fell on her apron; and in
80o FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS.her distress she did not perceive her aunt, who had justentered.'Bless me !' exclaimed Barbaik sharply, what are youdoing there, my beauty, weeping in the middle of theday, when there is work to do ? Cry at night, if you wantto cry.'As she spoke Barbaik seized her niece roughly by thearm, and forced her to rise. All at once a clear softsound was heard; pearls were rolling on the kitchen floor.As the tears flowed from the young girl's eyes, fresh pearlsfell on the ground, which the old woman, quite stupified,picked up as Fanchomick continued to weep.At this moment Steven entered.'She is weeping pearls !' cried the mistress of thefarm ; and with a greedy instinct she struck the poor child,until she made her sob more than ever. At every freshtear a pearl of the purest water was picked up by Barbaik.But Steven sprang towards her.' If a shower of pearls fell from her eyes at every tearshe shed, I would not see her weep!' exclaimed he,throwing his arms round Fanchomick. Look you, DameBarbaik, I love her; dare to strike her again!'
FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS. 8rThe miserly old woman's tone was changed.' Only one tear more for her poor aunt who brought herup from her childhood !' cried she, in a supplicating voice.'Selfish girl that you are If my tears were as valuableas yours, I would not cease weeping night or day.'But Fanchomick paid no attention to her aunt, andleft off crying. Her eyes were bright with a newmeaning. She leaned her two hands on the young man'sshoulder.'Steven,' said she, 'for your sake I have desired topossess leisure, wit, beauty, and riches, yet you haveoften deserted me in spite of all the gifts with which Iwas endowed. But still I trust you. You cannot desiremy riches, since you refuse to owe them to my tears.You say you love me; I will be a good and faithful wifeto you. To say I love you is needless. I have alreadyproved it too only plainly.'As she spoke she threw the pin and the chain at hisfeet-the wind had already carried away the feather-and looked in the face of her lover. The artificialbeauty given by the enchanted chain gradually fadedaway from her, but a tender confidence animated theG
82 FANCHOMICK'S FAIRY GIFTS,light blue eyes, and candour shone on her innocentbrow. The unnatural intelligence which had formerlyprompted her words gave place to a grave and sweetsimplicity. Her tears no longer changed to pearls; but ifthey did fall, they left no bitterness behind them. Stevenkissed her on her forehead and mouth.' Mine,' said he, 'in life and in death : without beauty,without wit, and without riches; but mine you are, andmine only.'Barbaik was beginning to cry.' Be quiet, aunt,' said Fanchomick, with a return of herold gaiety, or I will take away the pearls you have picked"up.'The old woman opened her hand to look at hertreasure. But with the rest of the fairy's gifts the pearls,too, had vanished; a few drops of water alone moistenedthe stiff fingers of the old miser.'We will work for you for nothing, aunt,' both thelovers cried together.' Well,' muttered the old woman between her teeth,'at any rate you won't expect me to find my ownnephew his meals, as if he were a day-labourer.'
83LEZ BREIS, THE BRETON DA VID,S% -'-ITTLE Lez Breis lived with his mother.f& -i&,- Ie was scarcely fifteenyears old; his hands-A were weak, and his white forehead lookedas if it would never support the weight of a helmet. Butonce, in the forest, he had met a knight returning fromthe war, and from that day the idea of becoming asoldier had taken possession of him. He wished to seethe world, he said, and, sword in hand, to go and fightthe Franks. His mother implored him to stay at homewith her.'Thou art too young, my child,' she said, to fightyet; the first Frank thou meetest will kill thee; thyhead will be pierced with the point of his lance, and Ishall be left alone, with no son to comfort me.'G2
84 LEZ BREIS, THE BRETON DAVID.'My sister will stay and comfort thee, dear mother,'said the boy; 'my sister Loiza, who is so good andsweet; she will soon hold the spindle at thy side and bethy companion, as a young girl should. But men aremade for war; they must go far from home, and seek forglory. When I come back to thee, my mother, thouwilt be happy; then thou wilt kiss my wounds, and ifthey still bleed thy kisses will heal them.' The motherembraced her son, but she was in no hurry to try theeffect of her caresses upon his imagined wounds.In vain do mothers hope to keep in the nest the youngeaglet whose wings are grown; Lez Breis went awayone morning, before day-break. He took the little browncolt, saddled him with his own hands, and fastened infront of the saddle the great sword of his father Konan,who had been killed long ago by his enemies in thecountry of the Franks. The sword was too heavy forthe feeble hands of the lad, and too long to be suspendedat his side, so Lez Breis armed himself with a dagger androde away. He had gone without telling his mother ofhis intention; and he was already far away when she rose,and, looking out of her window down the long straight
LEZ BREIS, THE BRETON DAVID. 85high-road, wondered what could have raised such a cloudof dust so early in the morning.' No doubt a drove of cattle has passed by, on its wayto the pasture,' she thought.No, poor mother, it was your own young son, who hadgone away to fight against the Franks !Time passed, and Lez Breis never came. For tenyears he fought in distant countries, and his name hadbecome celebrated everywhere ; but the fame of hisexploits had never reached the solitary home where hismother lived. Thither he was now returning, to defendhis native country against the Franks, who threatened itfrom all sides. He pressed his horse forward, for he wasimpatient to see his mother once more before he againwent into battle. Arrived at the house, he was surprisedto see briars and nettles growing in the courtyard, and thewalls half ruined and covered with ivy. He knocked atthe door with the hilt of his sword; it was opened by ablind old woman, whose trembling hands held by thedoor-posts for support.' My good soul, can you give me shelter here for thenight?' asked Lez Breis, anxiously.
86 LEZ BREIS, THE BRETON DAVID.'What we have shall be yours willingly, sir; but it isnot of the best. Our house has come down sadly sinceour child took his own way, and left us ten years ago.'A young girl appeared on the threshold. She was notblind, like the old servant; her eyes shone like diamondsunder her eye-lashes, and her hair was fairer than the flaxin her distaff. When she saw the knight, she began toweep, the tears running down her cheeks.Lez Breis, surprised at her grief, said to her,'Tell me, young girl, what is it that makes youweep ?'' Sir knight, I have a brother who is just your age;he went away ten years ago to follow the life of asoldier; and whenever I see a man armed at all pointsI weep, as I think of my poor little brother.'' My pretty child, tell me, have you no other brothers,and is your mother alive ?'' Other brothers I have no other in all the world, andmy poor mother is in heaven; she died of grief when mybrother went away to become a knight. Her bed is stillhere, and her arm-chair stands by the fireside ; and I, who
LEZ BREIS, THE BRETON DAVID. 87live here alone with my nurse, have nothing to consoleme but her holy cross.'The knight sighed and covered his face with hishands; the young girl approached him :-'Have you also lost your mother? she asked.'Yes,' said Lez Breis; I have indeed lost my mother,for I have killed her, and now she can pardon me only inParadise. I am Lez Breis, the son of Konan, and thou,Loiza, art my sister.'The young girl stood for a moment gazing at theknight, trying to recognize the features ; then she threwherself into his arms, put her hands round his neckand kissed him, weeping and laughing at the sametime.' God took thee away from us, my brother, but Hehas had pity on me, and has sent thee back,' cried she.Lez Breis, whose eyes had never before shed tears, weptalso. But he was soon obliged to depart, and oncemore leave his sister Loiza. He gave her money to buybeautiful dresses, and to repair the ruined manorhouse.
88 LEZ BREIS, THE BRETON DAVID.'It is money that I have won with my sword fromthe Franks,' he said. 'I was bringing it all to mymother.'He promised to return very soon, and whispered inher ear as he left her,' If I should find a valiant and goodly knight, who hasnot yet given himself in marriage, I will bring him backwith me to see my sister.'Loiza blushed, and Lez Breis leapt into his saddle.The King of the Franks was fighting on the frontiers,and pressing hard on the Breton nobles; every day someencounter took place; every day blood was shed. Theking at last said to his knights,'The man who rids me of Lez Breis will render me asignal service; he is only twenty-five, but he fights sobravely that no one can vanquish him, and I suffermuch from him in every battle.'The knights looked at each other; no one was de-sirous of engaging Lez Breis in single combat, and withequal arms. By the king's side there rode a giant, anAfrican Moor, of dark complexion, with broad shouldersand flaming eyes. He was a head taller than all the