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The Baldtmn Lihbry
I-. ~ I
THIE WHISPERING WINDS
"THEY WERE A HAPPY-HEARTED FAMILY."
THE WHISPERING WINDS
AND THE TALES THAT THEY TOLD
MARY H. DEBENHAM
Author of Three Little Maids from School", &c.
WITH TWENTY-FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS
BY PAUL HARDY
BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.
GLASGOW AND DUBLIN
INTRODUCTION, .. .. .. .. 9
BABY BENEDETTA, ....... ..... 17
THE GREEN BRIDAL, . . 61
THE MIST KING, .............. .o09
HILDA BRAVE-HEART, . ... 153
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"THEY WERE A HAPPY-HEARTED FAMILY," . 20
THE ELF-KNIGHTS HOLD REVEL ON THE HILLS, .... 93
"GOODY HOBBLED AFTER THEM WITH A BUNCH OF MARIGOLDS," 131
"PUT THIS ON YOUR HEAD AND YOU WILL BE INVISIBLE," 182
ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT.
"There, then, Maddalena, they are all against you," .... 25
The little Agoni bring the News to the Water-sprite, . 36
" Nita addressed herself to the Nightingale," . 43
" He threw the necklace with all his might," ....... 49
" He knew what it was to sit at old Dugall's feet," ..... 67
Eva vows to become a Bride when the Heather is in Bloom, 78
"Death to her! She has slain our chief! . .10oo
"Ronald stood with Eyv's face upon his breast," ... 104
"There's a bottle of stuff to go to old Goody Gabble,". 125
"The Mist King was galloping across the moor," .. 132
"They're like a lantern! Look how they show the path!" 139
"Oh, do let's be quick and wake them!" .... . 141
"A welcome home was a beautiful thing in those days," 165
"I am not the bride for a hero," . . 174
"It seemed to him that there was a figure always by his side," 193
" He liked to walk with her through the solemn fir-woods," 195
And he wandered away and away,
With Nature, the dear old Nurse,
Who sang to him night and day,
The rhymes of the Universe.
And whenever the way seemed long,
Or his heart began to fail,
She would sing a more wonderful song,
Or tell a more marvellous tale.
I wonder if all children are as greedy for stories
as those of my acquaintance. To keep them satis-
fied you must have a perfect memory for all the
tales you ever read or heard, or else you must
engage a story-spinning spider to live in your
o1 The Whispering Winds.
brain and be ready to work at a moment's notice.
They pounce upon you at all sorts of times.
They expect you to talk against the rattle of a
train; they seize on you the moment after dinner,
" because we don't want to have to go to bed in
the middle"; they drag you away from'the break-
fast-table before other people have finished till you
blush for your own rudeness, "because we sha'n't
get done before lessons".
When you protest, My good children, I
haven't got a story ready", they respond cheer-
fully, Oh, you can soon think one up"; and they
assist your brain by sitting on the top of you,
resting heads on your shoulders and elbows on
your knees, and asking about every two minutes,
Haven't you almost thought?"
"What am I to tell them next?" I said the
other day to some friends of mine; "there is
nothing new left to invent. Can't you provide me
with some stories?"
I should like to introduce you to these four
friends-old friends they are now, for they began
years ago to talk to me and tell me tales. Travel-
lers' tales they were, for these friends of mine
journey from the ends of the earth, and bring me
messages from the lands and seas over which they
pass-and men call them the Four Winds. Some-
times they come to me salt and fresh like tumbling
waves, or they sweep down with a rush and a roar
from rocky heights, or they whisper in my ear
such lullabies as mothers in sunny far-away lands
croon over their dark-eyed babies. They bring
the song of birds and the roar of mighty rivers,
echoes of weeping and sounds of laughter, fierce
war-cries and the clash of arms, and the musical
peal of church bells.
If you will only listen with earnest willing ears
they will tell you such tales as you never dreamt
of. But first you must make friends with them,
and learn to love them and welcome them each in
turn. You mustn't call them "horrid" when they
don't blow just as you wish, as if your convenience
were the only thing in the world worth considera-
tion. You mustn't turn sulky and hide your head
12 The Whispering Winds.
when they get a little boisterous and want a game
with you, when they take your hat for a football
and bring the rustling leaves about your ears, or
when they sweep fiercely down with an armful of
snow-flakes, of which the earth's winter counter-
pane is made. No, you must go out fearlessly
and bid them welcome, and they will teach you
their meaning and tell you their tales of far away,
and sing you to sleep with songs which they only
Well, when I asked these four friends to help
me in the matter of stories they were quite ready
to do their best.
Stories!" they said, "oh yes, we know plenty.
What sort do the children like best?"
"Well," I said, "the sort they always ask for
are fairy tales, wonderful things about wood-
sprites and water-sprites; and they are very fond,
too, of knights and ladies, and as many dragons
and giants and enchanted castles as you can
"Well," exclaimed my friends in chorus, "you
do surprise us! We thought that, since the
passing of the Education Act, the children were
all grown too wise to wonder at anything. Don't
they call a fairy an optical delusion, and declare
that a knight-errant was a useless member of
society, and that he and the dragons could not
exist under the same atmospheric conditions?"
Oh," I said rather severely, "you travel so fast
that it is- no wonder your information is inaccurate.
The children of my acquaintance have every
educational advantage, but their knowledge teaches
them that there are hundreds of good, beautiful
things in this world-and out of it-which they
cannot understand, and that the love and courage
which armed the knights are the grandest and
most powerful things in history."
That was true, was it not, dear children?
If that's the case," said one of the Winds,
whose voice had a merry roll and rumble like the
tossing of Atlantic waves; if that's the case, you
may come to me for stories. Why, Jack the
Giant-Killer himself, and King Arthur and all his
14 The Whispering Winds.
knights, came to live with me when the Saxons
drove them out."
"The Saxons brought plenty of good stories
with them," said the angry voice of a second
Wind. But that's always the way, nobody ever
has a good word for me. I do all the dirty work
-dry up the winter's mud, send the fogs and the
fevers about their business, get the ground ready
for sowing, and who thanks me except a few
farmers and sanitary inspectors, who have the sense
to be grateful?"
"There were some verses written about you
once," I said soothingly, for I felt that there was
some truth in the Wind's complaint.
"Very true," he replied, somewhat mollified;
"very fine verses they are, so I have heard.
Well, if your children would like something in
the way of a Norse Saga, I shall be glad to
Come to me for tales about fighting," said a
strong fresh voice like the rush of a mountain river.
" I will give you the gathering tune which called
the northern clans together, aye, and the coronach
which the women cry over a chief fallen in
You all talk so loud I can't make myself heard,"
said a soft voice with a caress in every gentle tone;
"but I should like to know who brought the Greek
myths, which were famous before anyone began to
talk about your heroes."
My dear friends," I pleaded, "would you mind
telling me your stories in turn? My brain will not
really take in more than one voice at a time."
You know we are never let out all together
now," said the West Wind regretfully. "Once upon
a time, when we lived in a mountain, a lady who
had her own reasons for wanting a hullabaloo
begged the old gentleman who had charge of us to
give us all a holiday on the same day. Oh what a
time we had!" and he laughed a free, merry laugh
like wind rattling in the shrouds.
"We got into mischief, I'm afraid," said the
South Wind demurely. I was sorry at the time
for the poor ship that we used so roughly, and we
16 The Whispering Winds.
got a dreadful scolding all round when it was over.
I should not like it to happen again."
You know we sha'n't have the chance," laughed
the merry West Wind.
Might we not begin the stories?" I suggested.
The Winds professed themselves quite ready,
the only question was whose story should come
"Well," I said, "we ought to be polite, and we
are a Northern nation, suppose we hear what the
South Wind has to say."
So the South Wind stole to my side, all fragrant
with the scent of flowers, and, in a voice like music
on a summer night, he whispered to me this story.
"Soft, soft wind from out the sweet South sliding,
Waft thy silver cloud-webs athwart the summer sea;
Thin, thin threads of mist on dewy fingers twining,
Weave a web of dappled gauze to shield my babe and me."
This is going to be a fairy-tale about a baby.
If babies could speak they would be themselves
the most wonderful story-tellers. They and the
fairies love each other dearly. What do you sup-
pose they see when they lie blinking and crowing
and catching at sunbeams? Why the elves of
course, sliding down the yellow rays, as their elder
brothers and sisters slide down the balusters.
There is a body-guard of fairies always stationed
round a baby; and though we don't see them,-
18 The Whispering Winds.
we're so blind we elder people,-we feel their
presence plainly enough.
Behave yourselves when you come here," they
say to us; "leave your naughty tempers and your
wrinkled foreheads and your worries and troubles
outside this circle, if you please." They keep a
custom-house, and have a strict examination of
everything that goes into the baby's country, and
they don't allow any smuggling.
"Mind your manners," they say, severely; "if
you want to come into Babydom you must do as
the babies do. Learn to laugh if you please, and
sing too if you can, and turn your back on stocks
and shares and politics, and Paris fashions, and
the price of mutton."
That's what the babies' fairy guardians say.
Just ask the grown-up people if they haven't
heard them, aye, and obeyed them too, as quickly
When this particular baby opened her eyes
first, she opened them on a square of the bluest
sky you ever saw, looking through the window
over her bed like the big blue eye of a great, kind,
smiling giant, and being a nice responsive baby
Baby Benedetta. 19
she smiled back at him at once. By and by she
noticed what might have been a green eyebrow to
the great blue eye, a little trailing bit of a vine,
with green cool pointed leaves and tiny twisting
tendrils, running all along the top of the window,
and breaking the sunshine into little patches on
the floor. And better than either the sky or the
vine, she had her mother's eyes to look at-deep,
deep dark eyes, all overflowing with the beautiful
love, which the angel who brings babies brings
straight out of heaven to mothers' hearts.
That was enough to occupy the most active-
minded baby for the first few days. Very soon
the baby's field of observation widened. First
it began to include the round brown faces and
big black eyes of her brother and her two sisters,
faces screwed up into quite a remarkable expression
of wonder and delight; for it was full seven years
since they had had a baby in the house, and at
that time Battista was only six and Maso a year
younger, and Chiara, having been the baby her-
self, was not qualified to express an opinion.
And after a little while she made acquaintance
with a wide blue lake watched over by rocky
20 The Whispering Winds.
mountain peaks, and with green woods and floods
of hot bright sunshine, and little boats with red
striped awnings. Why, if she had been a poet or
an artist there would have been enough there for
her to think about, and being only a very happy-
hearted baby, she smiled, and cooed, and sang
little songs to herself about all the beauty, and
grew sweeter and plumper every long summer's
She was a very smiling baby; the neighbours
all noticed it when they came to see her.
Only see how the little one smiles," they said
to her mother. It is a blessed child; you are
happy in your babies, my Maddalena."
And the young mother, thinking so too, called
her baby Benedetta.
Baby Benedetta came when the grapes were
just turning purple, and all through the winter
months there was sunshine enough in that little
house to have ripened any number of grapes, if
there had been any left ungathered. They were
a happy-hearted family, who smiled more than
they frowned; but even if they had been grave by
nature, the fairies who guarded Baby Benedetta
Baby Benedetta. 21
would have taken care that nothing but smiles
came where she was. And when the spring came,
then it would have been hard indeed to he!p being
happy. For the nightingales sang all day and all
night, the woods put on a court dress of the
daintiest, brightest green, the meadows were
white-robed and fragrant with narcissus, and on
the banks under the trees grew lilies like a peal of
little white bells, and gentian like big church bells
made out of a piece of the deep blue sky. And in
the little cottage by the lake the young hearts
sang as joyfully as the nightingales.
Well, one day a little boat came across the blue
water of Lake Maggiore, with a beautiful clear
reflection like a coloured picture dancing along by
its side. And when the keel grated on the pebbly
shore, there stepped out of it a man with a kind
brown face and white hair, whom the children ran
to meet and called Grandfather. And when he
had kissed them all round and hugged Mother
twice over, and tossed Baby Benedetta until she
crowed again, he told them why he had come
across from Pallanza to see them to-day. For
there was to be a wedding at Mother's old home,
22 The Whispering Winds.
directly, the very next week. It was that naughty
Tonino who wanted to carry off pretty Aunt Rosa
at once, who said he would not wait any longer
-did they desire to have a wedding when Rosa
was wrinkled and his hair was white like Grand-
father's? So here was Grandfather come to bring
all the love and the embraces of Grandmother and
Rosa, and to say that nothing in all the world must
keep Maddalena from coming to the wedding-yes
-and staying till late, quite late, when all the guests
were gone, that she might help Grandmother to
put things straight. Rosa had said she would
not be married unless her sister Maddalena came,
and Tonino said that if Rosa would not marry
him he would jump into the lake, and if Tonino
jumped into the lake, Tonino's aunt, who had
brought him up, would have no one to support
her. So there, Maddalena, little stay-at-home
that she was, might see what depended on her.
But, my father, the children!" said Maddalena
Bring them, bring them," said Grandfather
heartily; "the festa is for all the family, and
Grandmother will welcome them, the little angels!"
Baby Benedetta. 23
But even the children's father, who leaned
laughing against the door, knew better than that.
Grandmother will have enough to do without
four little angels under her feet," he said; "and if
it is to be a festa for the Madre, and she goes
to help Grandmother, they will be better at home.
I will stay and be Madre for the day."
But Maddalena would not hear of that. Go
without her husband! No indeed! Who could
make such fun at the wedding, or sing so good
a song as her Beppo? And Beppo had been
Tonino's friend; if Rosa would not be married
without her, assuredly Tonino would never be
married without Beppo.
And then Battista spoke, with her rosy cheeks
rosier than ever with indignation. Was she a
little tiny baby? Did not Mother say she made
as good soup as herself? Did she not dress and
undress Baby Benedetta for a whole week after
Mother cut her hand? Did the Madre really,
really think that she could not be trusted to mind
the house for one single day? Battista's black
eyes were quite full of tears, and Father, whose
pet she was, took her part.
24 The Whispering Winds.
"The little one is right," he said, "she grows
quite a woman; what should go wrong if she
keeps house for a day? You were no older,
Maddalena, when I saw you first, so good a little
Baby Benedetta. 25
housewife, and the mother and father away for
days together at the vintage."
Maddalena shook her head.
Yes, but there were neighbours always in and
out, and here it is so lonely."
"Well, and if there were neighbours," cried
Battista, "what good would they be? Does not
Mother Assunta, when she does come, make the
little one almost cry, she holds her so badly? Did
you not say I was twice as good a nurse, did you
not, did you not? Ah, Mother, you know you did."
I will take care of Baby Benedetta," cried
Maso; "what should hurt her while I am here?
I will not look away from her, not so much as for
a single moment, all day long."
"And I will play with her," whispered little
Chiara, with her chin on Mother's knee as she
knelt beside her. I will get flowers for her, and
sing and tell stories all the time that Battista
makes the soup."
"There then, Maddalena, they are all against
you," said Grandfather; "and the little one would
say the same if she could. Come, say yes, they
all wait for you."
26 The Whispering Winds.
Come, Madre, we say yes, do we not?" said
"Say yes, say yes, Mother," clamoured the
So the Madre said yes, hesitating at first, then
laughing at herself for hesitating, for after all what
could happen to hurt the little family between
sunrise and sunset on one bright May day? So
Grandfather said good-bye, and kissed them all
round and went away, and Maddalena got out her
fete-day dress, and sighed and smiled to think of
her own wedding and of Aunt Rosa, a little,
laughing, roguish maiden then younger than
Battista, and now a bride herself. To think
how time flies; why, Tista will be the next to
And so the wedding-day arrived, and in the
pure, sunny morning she dressed herself, and put
great silver pins in her dark coils of hair, and
kissed the children all round, with two kisses for
Baby. Then she gave them all ever so many
charges to be good, and started, looking back to
wave her hand, and running back to say good-bye
again, until Father dragged her away, saying they
Baby Benedetta. 27
would be late for the market boat which would
take them from Baveno to Pallanza.
'" I shall be very glad to see Maddalena back,"
remarked Nita the goat to herself, as she chewed
the fresh spring grass meditatively at the cottage
door. She was a motherly old person, with little
ones of her own. Battista is a good child, but
young-very young-and thoughtless. Why not?
Who looks for a beard on the chin of a kid? But
that blessed baby weighs on my mind."
There were two lizards, an emerald green and
a peacock blue one, sunning themselves among
the ferns on a bit of old wall close by, and what
Nita thought, they said out loud.
"I think Maddalena is to be blamed, very
much to be blamed," the emerald lizard said, mak-
ing a little nervous dart up the wall. It gives
me the creepy shivers to the tip of my tail to
think of what might happen to Baby Benedetta
while she is at Pallanza."
So it does me," said the peacock blue lizard;
suppose a thunder-storm came, or a thief stole
her. Why, bless my heart, why couldn't they
take her with them?"
28 The Whispering Winds.
"You just show your utter ignorance of the
subject," said Nita crossly. She was anxious her-
self, but she possessed the fine virtue of self-con-
trol and didn't bother other people with her fears;
and the lizards, she declared, kept her always on
the fidget with their perpetual dartings and shoot-
ings. "A baby at a wedding! Who ever heard
such stuff? And, pray, who ought to know most
about the dear children, their mother, or you two?
If people would but hold their tongues until they
have something worth saying."
Which remarks so crushed the lizards, that
they darted into the nearest crevices between the
stones like two flashes of light from a blue and
Meanwhile the children watched the father and
mother as far as they could see them along the
dusty road, with the blue lake on one side and the
green woods on the other, and then they came
back to the little pebbly beach before the cottage.
They made a sort of little throne for Baby Bene-
detta, and while Battista tidied the room and
chopped vegetables for the soup, the other two
played with her and told her stories. They
Baby Benedetta. 29
watched for the boat on its way from Baveno to
Pallanza, and they counted the little boats and
wondered who was in them. They looked at the
mountains opposite, with the two peaks which
kissed the stars at night, and wondered whether,
if one ever got up so high, one could see what the
angels were doing.
While they talked a nightingale sang in the
tree behind the cottage. He was a genius-the
nightingale was. That means that he had some-
thing beautiful to tell the world, and that he was
bound day and night to sing till he had told it.
It means that people heard him, and new thoughts
came into their tired hearts, or their own old
thoughts, which had been dim and hazy and un-
formed, stood out clear and beautiful before their
eyes, as if someone broke a place in a big black
cloud and showed the sun, which had been shin-
ing away all the time out of sight. Sometimes
he was sad because he could not tell his mes-
sage well enough; sometimes he got a horrid
idea, quite a mistaken one, that he was singing
out of tune; but then one must pay, by some little
drawbacks, for knowing more than other people.
30 The Whispering Winds.
The children didn't half understand him; but
they knew that they were the happier for his song,
which, indeed, was all he wanted with them at
While the sun shone and the nightingale sang
and the children chattered, Nita nibbled the grass
close by, and Chiara made a wreath of flowers and
put it round her neck; and Nita bleated with plea-
sure, and rubbed up against her and said to herself:
"Good, good; they are wise children, every-
thing will be right."
The lizards, who had short memories, had got
over their snubbing, and come out into the sun
again. They watched the children, and raved to
each other about Baby Benedetta; for they were
enthusiastic creatures, and never could help talk-
ing about their feelings.
There was someone else, too, watching the
group of children; someone who looked up at
them through the clear blue depths of the lake;
-someone who had a wonderful home just where
the pebbly shore shelved down into deep water.
She was water-sprite, and a very beautiful one.
She had a face like a picture, or a lovely doll.
Baby Benedetta. 31
She was hundreds of years old, but there was not
a gray thread in her long dark tresses, not a
wrinkle on her white brow, no lines of sorrow or
weariness or tender anxiety on her smooth, fair
face. Some people think a face is improved by
them, but that is a matter of taste.
The water-sprite, who was a great lady among
the lake fairies, had a lovely palace under the
water, lots of inferior sprites for servants, and
fishes to go errands for her. Anyone would have
said that she must be perfectly contented. But it
is always the way in this dissatisfied world, that
the one thing we haven't got is the one thing
we set our hearts on. And the water-sprite was
quite cross and ill with wanting Baby Benedetta.
There is nothing in the world that makes one
feel so green and horrid as wanting what belongs
to other people; only if one is a respectable, and at
the same time a sensible person, one just looks
the other way and thinks about something else.
But the water-sprite, being neither respectable nor
sensible, went on looking and wanting until she
felt as if it were hardly worth while going on
living at all, unless, by hook or by crook, she
32 The Whispering Winds.
could get hold of the baby. But then how was it
possible for her to steal Baby Benedetta when she
was being so well taken care of? For Tista had
come out of the cottage and was sitting on one
side of her, and Maso on the other, and Chiara
kneeling in front of her, and what chance was
there for a greedy water-fairy to get past those
loving little guardians?
So the fairy went into a dreadful passion, and
shook all her hair into a tangle-which hurt her-
self more than anyone else,-and scolded and
fumed, until the agoni, the little brown fish who
lived in the lake and ran-no, swam-errands for
the water-sprites, simply turned tail and scuttled
away in terror. And then she rolled her eyes and
said, "A time will come", which always seems to
comfort the bad people in stories, and threw her-
self down on a couch of silvery sand to wait till
the time arrived.
And meanwhile the sun beat down hot on the
blue lake and the green woods, and Baby Bene-
detta's eyelids began to droop, and Battista said,
" There then, she is sleepy, the little angel. Sleep
then, my treasure, and Tista will sing to her."
Baby Benedetta. 33
And she laid the baby on the grass in the shade,
and sang to her about someone who went away in
a most beautiful uniform to fight his country's
enemies, and someone else who was obliged to
stay behind and would dearly like to have been
a soldier and gone too. It was strange to hear
about soldiers and fighting in the hot bright sum-
mer noontide beside the still lake, but it did quite
well for Baby Benedetta, who fell fast asleep with
a little half smile flickering on her lips.
After she had sung the song twice Battista sat
silent, leaning back against the mossy wall, where
the lizards darted in and out of the crevices. She
was thinking about her mother and the wedding
and Aunt Rosa. Ah, how pretty she would look
dressed for her bridal! What fun it would be to
have everyone looking at you and admiring you
and wishing you good fortune! Tista will be
the next," the Madre had said, and Battista smiled
to herself and wished she could grow up quicker.
She had heard Grandmother say that she was Aunt
Rosa over again, and she wondered if she would
really ever be as pretty. Maso and Chiara had
moved away, and were having a game by the
34 The Whispering Winds.
water's edge, and Tista went down to the lake
and tried to see herself in the still water. Yes,
her eyes were like Aunt Rosa's, and her face was
the same shape only rather fatter; she would look
much more like her if she had on her fete-day
dress, and her necklace, the beautiful necklace that
Grandfather gave her. Oh! what a pity it was
Mother would not let her wear it oftener. And
then she would have to do her hair differently;
if she twisted it up on the top of her head like
Aunt Rosa's and put a great pin into it, she would
certainly look much taller and more important.
Suppose she were to go into the cottage and try.
She quite longed to see how she would look. She
cast a glance at Baby Benedetta. She was fast
asleep, and would sleep for an hour or more, most
"Maso! Chiara!" she called, "take care of
the bambina till I come back, I'll only be a few
minutes," and she went into the house. Maso
and Chiara heard her, and stopped their game for
a minute to look at Baby. But she was so
happily asleep that it seemed a pity to disturb her
by moving her to where they were playing, and
Baby Benedetta. 35
they couldn't possibly have the same game any-
where else. For just in that place a fallen tree-
trunk ran out into the water, and they were
pretending that it was a boat, and that Maso was
a boatman who took people for trips on the lake,
and Chiara was a grand English signora in velvet
and diamonds (which we know English ladies
always wear when they travel), and wanted to be
rowed to Santa Catarina. And, after all, what
could happen to Baby Benedetta, even though
some trees just hid her from their sight?
What could happen? Oh, my dear children, if
you could but have known about the greedy eyes
gazing up through the clear water, if you could
but have seen the figure in the green floating
robes with the greedy arms outstretched, who was
parting the blue lake as she rose up noiselessly to
the surface, how you would have forgotten in a
moment all about your play and your finery, and
flown to make a body-guard around that precious
It was the agoni who noticed first that Baby
Benedetta was left alone.
They were horrid little sycophants, always try-
36 The Whispering Winds.
ing to curry favour with somebody, and they
thought if they told the water-sprite she might
, 1- 41W_
reward them for it. So they swam to her in a
great hurry, and told her that if she really wanted
the little mortal baby she had better make haste
Baby Benedetta. 37
before its relations came back. The water-sprite
wouldn't believe them at first, but the agoni
vowed they wouldn't tell her a story to save them-
selves from being fried with bread crumbs. They
said that sort of thing every day, and it meant
nothing; but the water-sprite went to look, and
found that, for once in a way, the agoni had
spoken the truth.
So up she rose through the clear sparkling
water until her bare white feet rested on the shingly
beach. A little white cloud came across the sun
as she stepped on shore; the nightingale stopped
singing, and no wonder, it was enough to make
any respectable nightingale feel bad to have any-
one near him so greedy and horrid as the water-
sprite looked at that moment, with the naughty
selfish gleam in her cold eyes. The lizards saw
her and went nearly mad; they darted up and
down like blue and green lightning and tried to
shriek for help; and Nita the goat bleated with all
her might, and tore at the cord by which she was
fastened to a peg in the ground. But, poor things,
what could they do? All their efforts could not
tell the children what was happening. And, in
38 The Whispering Winds.
the cottage, Tista was standing on a stool before
a cracked looking-glass, with her necklace of
coloured beads round her bare brown throat, and
her thick black hair in a heavy coil on the top of
her head. "I am like Aunt Rosa," she was
thinking. "Ah, now, if I had Mother's silver
pins, should I not be quite beautiful!"
And, outside, Maso was telling the English
signora how a great rock fell through the roof of
Santa Catarina's little church, and how the good
saint preserved everyone from harm. And Chiara
held up her hands and exclaimed:
"Oh, wonderful! Miraculous! But you, my
friend, tell the story so beautifully that I must
give you a piece of English gold, and I shall
never row in any boat but yours."
How should any of them have eyes or ears
for the wicked water-sprite, as she bent over
Baby Benedetta and lifted her, still fast asleep,
in her arms, and stepped back into the lake,
and sank down out of sight through the calm blue
The green and blue lizards rushed almost to the
water's edge in their despair.
Baby Benedetta. 39
"Oh, the baby, the baby!" they screamed.
"Oh, the darling bambina! Oh, thieves! murder!
police! Why doesn't somebody come?"
But nobody came till after the parted waters
had closed again over the fairy and her burden,
and the sun was shining down, as if in mockery,
on the place where Baby Benedetta had sunk out
Then Battista came out of the cottage with
her necklace on, and a posy of fragrant white
narcissus at her breast, and holding her head
rather carefully, because her hair didn't feel very
firm. She saw that Baby Benedetta was not
lying where she left her, and supposed that she
was awake and the others had taken her to play
with them. So she went to look for them, hoping
they would be impressed by the difference in her
appearance. After a minute she met Maso and
Chiara. Their game had not ended quite happily,
because Maso wanted to play that he came home
and had a little house and a vineyard of his own,
and Chiara was his wife and made the soup, and
Chiara much preferred to be the English signora
and give little pebbles for gold pieces. So they
40 The Whispering Winds.
couldn't agree, and left off playing and came back
to find Battista.
"Where have you left Baby Benedetta?" asked
Battista, forgetting to wonder if they noticed her
hair when she missed the baby.
"Under the tree by the house," said Maso.
"She was fast asleep, so we didn't move her."
All the red went out of Battista's cheeks.
She's gone!" she cried, and ran back to make
sure, and the others rushed after her.
There was the tree, and the red handkerchief
which had been tied over Tista's hair, and the
grass pressed down where they had all been
sitting-but no baby!
She must have woken up and crawled away,"
said Chiara, with a dreadful frightened look in her
And then they all ran hither and thither, and
shouted and called, first trying to speak merrily,
then getting more and more anxious and terrified,
until at last Battista threw herself down on the
grass under the tree and burst out into passionate
"She's lost, she's gone!" she sobbed. "Oh,
Baby Benedelta. 41
what shall I do, what shall I do? Oh, wicked
ones, I told you to take care of her!"
"Why did you leave her?" cried Maso. "You
promised Mother to take care of her, you know
Oh, don't, don't!" sobbed Chiara. "Oh, we're
all wicked and miserable, don't let us quar-
rel! Oh, Baby, Baby! Oh, what will Mother
Oh, I wish I was dead!" wailed Tista, rocking
herself backwards and forwards. Oh, I can't
meet Mother, I shall jump into the lake and
No, don't," said Chiara again, it's enough to
lose Baby; if you were gone too Mother would
die." And then they threw themselves down
on the grass and cried till they could cry no
All this -was very sad to see. Kind-hearted
old Nita turned her head away, and the sympa-
thetic lizards wept abundantly.
"Oh, dear, it's too dreadful!" sobbed the pea-
cock-blue one; "it's perfectly heart-breaking, I
can't stand it any longer."
42 The Whispering Winds.
"Nor can I," whimpered his emerald-green
brother; "do let's do something. If only we
could tell them where she is."
But we can't; they can't hear us," said the
first lizard. Oh, dear, why can't we talk human
language? Couldn't we get an interpreter? When
Maddalena comes home and finds the bambina
gone her heart will break, I know it will, and
Beppo will die of grief."
Oh, yes, so he will, and the dear children will
starve," sobbed the other. Oh, I can't stand by
and see them starve! Oh, let's do something this
And then they cried for ten minutes over
Maddalena's broken heart, and then spent ten
more minutes in saying how sweet Baby Bene-
detta was; which was true, but beside the subject;
but the lizards never could go straight to any
point, and always tried the temper of the chairman
when they sat on a committee. But while the
lizards raved Nita was using her brains, and she
started from the point at which they had branched
off to weep.
Couldn't we get an interpreter? Was there no
Baby Benedetta. 43
one who could tell the children where Baby Bene-
And as Nita wasted no time in weeping or
speculation, she soon came to a conclusion. There
was only one person she could think of who could
understand her, and to whose voice she knew
human beings would listen, and that was the
nightingale. So she determined to ask the night-
ingale's advice. I can't say she liked doing it, for,
if the truth must be told, Nita was not fond of
asking advice from anybody, and had always con-
sidered that the nightingale wasted a good deal
of time in singing songs which did not help him
in building his nest or providing himself with daily
bread. However, she felt that the way to help
the children was beyond her understanding, and,
like a wise creature, she came to the conclusion
that there might be powers beyond her under-
standing too, and that she had better go else-
where for help. So she addressed herself to the
nightingale, who was sitting on a bough just behind
"Signor," she said, "can you spare me five
minutes, if you please? It isn't often I trouble
44 The Whkispering Winds.
you with my affairs, but things have gone wrong,
and I own it's past my power to mend them."
She had got so far when the lizards understood
what she was doing, and chimed in both together
Oh yes, dear signor, gracious signor, you will
help us, won't you? You're so kind and so clever,
and all our hearts will break if you don't help
Nita went on as if the lizards had not spoken.
That wretch of a water-sprite has got Baby
Benedetta, and I can't even tell the children
Baby Benedetta. 45
where she is. Now, I know these two-legged
human creatures listen to you, though they can't
understand a good bleat."
"And so you'll tell them, won't you, dear, beau-
tiful, kind signor?" cried the lizards; "or they'll
die of grief, and so shall we."
"And a jolly good thing if you did," cried the
exasperated Nita. Of course she said it in Italian,
which sounded prettier, but meant something quite
"Poor things, don't scold them," said the
nightingale kindly; "they're very unhappy."
"So are we all," said Nita; but it won't make
us happier to behave like idiots."
"We all want to do our best to help," said the
nightingale, "and I am going to do my part.
Only, you know, my friends, I have not anything
of my own to say. I speak the message that is
given to me, and sometimes I'm afraid I cannot
speak it clearly. But I think there will be a word
for the children here, and I will tell it them as well
as ever I can."
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" gasped the
lizards; "we knew you'd manage everything."
46 The Whispering Winds.
Do hold your tongues," said Nita; the signor
can't hear himself sing for your jabber."
So the lizards kept as quiet as they could, and
the nightingale flew to the tree under which the
children lay, and began to sing. At first none of
them took any notice. Then Maso stuffed his
fingers into his ears, for it made him think of
Baby Benedetta and feel more miserable than
ever. Tista was almost too unhappy to notice
anything, but Chiara sat up and listened, with a
sudden look of interest in her face. Then she
seized her sister by the shoulder.
Listen, listen!" she cried. Hark what the
"What do you mean?" asked the other two.
But Chiara only replied, "Listen! do listen!"
And certainly it seemed to them all that the
nightingale's clear song had words to it, and this
is how they ran:
The lake holds a treasure worth its weight in
Sold, but that which is more precious than gold may
yet buy it back again."
That was all, and he sang it three times, and
after the third time Chiara started up and cried:
Baby Benedetta. 47
He means Baby Benedetta, I know he does!
She's worth her weight in gold, and she's in the
lake-the water-sprites have got her! Mother
Assunta talks about them, and we must buy her
back. Oh, dear nightingale, thank you, thank
But oh, how can we?" cried Battista, while
they all three ran to the edge of the lake as if to
look for Baby Benedetta in its depths. We
haven't anything more precious than gold to buy
her back with. What must we do? Shall we sell
everything we've got?"
Your necklace, Tista," cried Maso.
Oh yes, yes," said Battista eagerly, beginning
to unclasp it with fingers that trembled so that she
could hardly use them.
Now we know, of course, that poor Tista's bead
necklace wasn't precious at all. Of course not?
Everybody has them nowadays, your grown-up
sisters wouldn't wear them to a dance. But, you
see, when Grandfather brought them for Tista from
the fair, and chose the colours he knew she liked
best, and made her put her hand into his pocket
to find what there was there for her, she was so
48 The Whispering Winds.
delighted and felt so fine, that sapphires and
emeralds couldn't have seemed more valuable. It
was Tista's greatest treasure. But, oh dear, what
was it by the side of Baby Benedetta? And yet
she could not but give it just one little loving look
as she unfastened it and held it up high in her hand.
I will throw it into the deep water where the
water-sprites live," she said.
Nita and the lizards watched her, Nita quite
quiet, though she was really trembling with
anxiety, and the lizards quivering to the tips of
their tails. She never stopped to look at herself
in the water this time. If she had she would have
seen a pale face and eyes red with crying, and
the thick dark hair all tumbling loose about her
shoulders; and yet there had come a new beauty
into her face, a something which can't be put into
words, because it doesn't belong to this world at
Just as she lifted the necklace to throw it, Maso
caught her arm.
Let me run out where it is deeper," he cried,
and he ran out, knee-deep, waist-deep, into the
water. Once he stopped a moment and bit his lip
Baby Benedetta. 49
hard, for he had stepped on a sharp pebble, and
his foot was cut and bleeding.
Are your hurt, Maso?" asked Chiara.
"No, no, it is nothing," he said; and then he
threw the necklace with all his might, and it struck
the still water and sank out of sight. Then
Chiara stretched out her arms, and her tears fell
into the lake.
Oh, water-fairies, give her back to us!" she
cried. "You shall have all we have got, only
give us back Baby Benedetta!"
50 The Whispering Winds.
But nobody answered, and the three children
stood with hands held out and eager eyes fixed on
Now down at the bottom of the lake the Queen
of the water-sprites was making a royal progress.
She rode along in her state chariot, and took
order with any of her subjects who were not
behaving themselves. You may be quite sure
that the tuft-hunting agoni were on the look-out
to curry favour with her Majesty, and had no
compunction at all about telling tales of their
mistress, the water-sprite. They stood in the
way, bowing and scraping, as she came along,
and all began with their most subservient manner.
"Long live the Queen! Welcome, your Ma-
jesty, to this end of the lake. Permit us the
happiness of directing your Majesty to some
objects worthy of your attention. Here you
may behold some jewels, fitted for no one but
Now the Queen, in spite of her exalted station,
had a real woman's love for ornaments, so, when
the agoni said that, she stopped to listen, and
asked where the jewels were to be seen.
Baby Benedetta. 51
"This way, your Majesty," said the agoni, feel-
ing sure of posts about the royal household, and
they swam, tails first so as not to turn their backs
on the Queen, into the apartment where the water-
sprite was lying on her couch, with the most
glorious jewels you ever saw spread out before
her. There was a necklace of sapphires and
emeralds as big as marbles, and a clasp set with
three wonderful rubies, and a coronet of the most
perfect pearls, and, as the sunshine streamed on
them through the clear water, they were almost
too dazzling to look at.
But where did they come from, you ask, when
all that the children sent down was a bead neck-
lace? Yes, and something else besides. Do you
remember those drops of blood on Maso's cut foot
which no one knew anything about, and those
longing, loving tears which Chiara's black eyes
dropped into the lake? Well, once upon a time,
men were always looking for the Philosopher's
Stone, which turned everything to gold, and I
think that some such charm had touched the
common blue and green beads and the brave
drops of blood and the tender tears, something
52 The Whispering Winds.
called Love and Sacrifice, which make what they
touch more rare and precious than all the sap-
phires and emeralds, all the rubies and pearls, in
the whole world.
"Dear me!" exclaimed the Queen, "however
did you come by those? Why, I never saw such
jewels in my life!'
The water-sprite had not heard her coming,
and she jumped up and made her court curtsy in
a great hurry, clutching the jewels at the same time.
"Where did you get them?" asked the Queen
"They were sent down by some human beings,"
stammered the fairy.
"Indeed! Very unusual, I think," said the
Queen dryly; and just then she caught of Baby
Benedetta, fast asleep on a heap of silky green
"My word," exclaimed the Queen, "what a
beautiful human baby! Where did you get it, I
-should like to know? Sent down, I suppose, like
the jewels. You stole it, you know you did,
getting us into bad odour with the mortals.
Come, tell the truth, for I mean to know."
Baby Benedetta. 53
If the water-sprite had been a dog she would
certainly have put her tail between her legs. She
looked thoroughly driven into a corner.
"They did send the jewels down," she said
"To buy back the baby," whispered the tell-
"Well, I call it perfectly abominable," said
the Queen, I never heard of such goings-on.
For you to presume to keep the baby when you
were paid a fair price for it. The fact is, you
fairies of good family think you can have it all
your own way, but you'll find yourselves mistaken,
I can tell you. Take the baby home this minute,
and put it where you found it. And as for the
ornaments," and her fingers closed over them,
" they'll go among the crown jewels. You take
them to my palace," she said to the agoni.
The horrid little things swam off with alacrity,
thinking they would certainly be made keepers of
the regalia. But they had reckoned without
their host; for the sun, who had been playing
about the jewels all the time, had no intention of
letting them stay among the water-fairies. So a
54 The Whispering Winds.
sunbeam was despatched to take them straight up
to the highest of those two mountain peaks, and
there you may see them glowing sometimes, when
you think it is the setting sun kissing the snow.
The agoni got a tremendous scolding for not
taking better care of the treasures, and were out
of favour with everybody, which generally happens
to those sort of people, and nobody was sorry for
But, meanwhile, the water-sprite, who dared
not disobey the Queen, had taken up Baby Bene-
detta and carried her back to the shore, and laid
her down under the tree, all so noiselessly that the
children, who were looking the wrong way, knew
nothing about it. And then she went back to her
lake palace and sulked and scolded, and gave her
maids a dreadful time of it for the next week.
But Battista and Maso and Chiara, after waiting
for what seemed to them like hours, began to de-
spair of ever getting their little sister back.
- "The necklace was not good enough," sobbed
Tista, as they turned back towards the cottage;
"not good enough to buy back Baby Benedetta.
Oh, I would give everything I've got, I'd go down
Baby Benedetta. 55
and live at the bottom of the lake myself, if I
could only see her lying under the tree where we
Why!-why!-" burst out Maso.
She's there!" screamed Chiara.
And then-what then? Did you ever hear of
eating people up with kisses? I can tell you
Baby Benedetta ran some risk of it from her
brother and sisters that day. She woke up
directly and laughed and cooed, and talked a
great deal in baby language, telling them,-if they
could have understood her,-all about the bottom
of the lake and the water-sprites and the agoni,
and that she was very glad indeed to be back
again, for the water-fairy was not half as pretty as
Tista, and there were no flowers there to make
garlands of. But they didn't understand; they
only knew that they were the happiest children,
and their baby the most beautiful baby in the
world, and that she should never, never, never,
never go away from them any more.
The moon was up that night when Maddalena
and her husband came home. There was a path
of silver right across the lake, and in at the win-
56 The Whispering Winds.
dow and along the floor of the room where the
children were asleep, though they were so sure
they would have been awake when Mother got
back. On a tree behind the cottage the nightin-
gale was singing with all his heart. He knew he
was singing his best to-night, and he sang and
rejoiced and told a beautiful story, which is as old
as the world and yet is always new.
What self-love has lost, self-sacrizfce may win
again," he sang; and the stars above shone back
in answer, "Yes, yes, that is true."
The lizards were asleep in a hole in the wall.
"Such another day would be the death of us,"
they had said to each other; "but all's well that
Nita stayed awake till she heard the father and
mother coming along the shady road.
"That's a good thing," she said as they drew
near. "Now I can sleep in peace, and if they
don't all take good care of that precious bambina
in future, they're not worthy to be trusted with
her, that's all.
Maddalena felt very happy as she drew near
Baby Benedetta. 57
"It has been a beautiful, happy day," she said,
"and the best part of all is the coming home to
the little ones. Do you hear, Beppo, how the
nightingale is singing? It is a beautiful world,
my dear, and I am the happiest woman in it."
And then she stepped noiselessly across the
threshold, and kissed the four sleeping faces, and
the children never woke, only Baby Benedetta
smiled in her sleep.
And, overhead, the nightingale sang to the
"Is that all?" I asked, as the South Wind's
soft tones died away into silence.
Certainly," he replied, just a little bit ruffled
by the question. "What else do you want?
Would you like me to say that Baby Benedetta
grew up to be a blessing and a comfort to all
who knew her? No thank you; I'm like the
great Sir Walter Scott, I don't tell people what
their own common sense ought to find out for
Oh, indeed, I didn't mean that at all," I said,
hastily. "I only wanted to know if that was
58 The Whispering Winds.
really all, and to say how very much I've enjoyed
the story, and I am sure it will suit the children
"Well," said the North Wind, coming down
upon me with a rush and a sweep; "well, my
taste is for something a trifle more stirring. That
last story was like a lullaby all through; I wonder
you could keep your eyes open."
"And pray, what else would you have where a
baby is concerned?" I said severely.
"Not a bit of it," laughed the North Wind.
"Babies like what they are accustomed to; if
you're for ever purring over them, of course they
can't stand anything stronger. Why, dear me,
didn't you ever hear the song,
On the tree top?'
The wind wasn't too particular when he broke the
bough, and you may trust me that that baby came
up smiling. Many a bairn has fallen asleep with
my voice in his ears, and lived to grow into a
Well, don't find fault with other people's style,
Baby Benedetta. 59
even if you have stories of your own to tell," I
I spoke with all the severity I could muster,
just because I was afraid of being unfair; for, do
you know, the voice of that Northern wind went
straight to my heart. As I listened there came
to me the sound of rushing waters and the wild
music of the pipes, and it made my blood run
Stories!" laughed the North Wind! "only let
me try. Do you think there are no fairies any-
where except in your sleepy blue ponds down
South? Did you never hear of the kelpie who
lives in the Northern rivers? There's something
to make your hair stand on end if you like. Have
your Southern families got a spirit of their very
own to warn them when trouble is coming? Do
you think I make those shouts myself that come
borne on my wings, when the nights are wild and
the snow comes driving up the glen? I'll tell you
stories by the score, and I'll warrant you'll not go
to sleep over them."
And I turned to the North Wind and held out
my hands to him as to an old friend.
60 The Whispering Winds.
"Tell me a story from the Scottish Highlands,'
I cried, I don't mind what it is, so that it comes
from the North."
And, as I shut my eyes to listen, the hills rose
round me, heaving up their purple shoulders
against the pale sky, and the heather was under
my feet and the voice of the river in my ears.
And then the North Wind began-
Backwards, backwards let me wander,
To the noble northern land,
Let me feel the breezes blowing
Fresh along the mountain side;
Let me see the purple heather,
Let me hear the thundering tide.-Aytoun.
Who may dare on wold to wear
The fairy's fatal green.-Scott.
I know a northern glen where the winds and
the mists have their home. The mountains draw
together there and leave only a narrow gorge
between them, where the river rushes over the
stones or lies in dark silent pools under the rocks.
On one side the tall bracken and the graceful
birches clothe the hill, and on the other the steep
mountain rises up bare and dark, with only a
62 The Whispering. Winds.
narrow path, where but one man can walk at a
time, running along the face of the precipice.
And just at the head of the glen, where the
river bends a little, there is a piece of grass as
green as an emerald, lying there girdled round by
rock and purple heather, and high on the opposite
bank, looking up the gorge and down upon the
river like a stern watchman, there stood, once upon
a time, a gray old castle. Oh no! you won't find
it there now. People have grown so quiet and so
orderly we don't want stone walls now to keep us
safe. The laws do that, of course; that's to say,
they do their best. But though they have tamed
the people who lived there they can't tame the
glen, not they, and the rocks rise up dark and
grand still, and the river hasn't learnt to flow like
a canal, and the storm howls there as fiercely as in
the days when the chieftain I am going to tell you
about "kept his castle in the north", and kept his
neighbours in order into the bargain.
Ah! I wish you could have seen him coming
down the hillside, with his long easy stride and his
fluttering tartans, and the eagle's feather in his
bonnet to mark him out from the rest of his clan.
The Green Bridal. 63
I don't fancy we make men like that nowadays;
they don't get fresh air enough. Fresh air and
plenty of room to move are the things that go to
the making of people like this chief. And didn't
his people love him, his wild, sturdy, simple
people, who lived in their little heather-thatched
huts all up the glen. It never filled them with
envy that he lived in a castle, and it never
occurred to them to want his eagle's feather or his
big brooch for themselves. His family had been
their chiefs long, long before any of them could
remember, and had a right, they thought, to their
Moreover, being a chief was not all fun, and
meant a certain amount of work on the other side
too. For instance, if one of their clan got his
house burnt or his cattle carried off by an amiable
neighbour, he knew he had only to present him-
self and his grievance at the castle by the river,
and the chief's sword, or his purse (which hadn't
generally much in it), nay, his last cow or his last
loaf, would be at his clansman's service that
minute. And at the same time they knew that
they had to mind their own manners, after two
64 The Wkispering Winds.
or three rather rough-and-ready rules which their
lord and master laid down for them. They knew
that if they practised their light-fingered tricks on
each other's cattle, or were greedy over the spoil
they took in lawful warfare with people they had
a quarrel against, he was pretty sure to hear of it,
and the offender wouldn't care to face the look
which kindled his frank blue eyes when he was
Does eagle prey upon eagle and brother upon
brother?" he would say, with a roar in his voice
like the waves practising for a storm. "You
know me, Ronald vich Alastair nan Cath." (Rather
a mouthful of a name to call anyone by, but it
runs off Highland tongues like water over the
To which the clan would reply submissively
that they did know, and would be very careful
for a good long time afterwards. For they were
like a big family, you see, with a father whom
everybody looked up to and obeyed, and a lot
of unruly children who looked to him for help
and counsel in return. And while they each stuck
to their own part of the bargain, it worked very
The Green Bridal. 65
well, as things do when everybody pulls evenly
and takes his own share of the work.
The chieftain's wife was dead. They had
buried her among those who had borne his name
for generations past, on a little island in the
middle of a dark steely lake, with sombre fir-trees
climbing the banks around it. All up the glen
the people wept for her, the pipers played mourn-
ful music and the women cried the coronach, till
the hills echoed with their mourning voices. The
castle seemed quite desolate when she was gone,
though she was only one gentle woman, with a
soft kind tongue and a very loving heart. She
left them all something, though, to keep them
from forgetting her, and the something was a
stout-limbed, yellow-haired baby boy, who was to
be a chief like his father some day, and to have
the eagle's feather and the castle, and what was
much better, all the love and loyalty of his father's
He was a bonnie boy, that little chief, young
Ronald as they called him, so as to distinguish
him from his father until he earned some grand
nickname of his own. He would be like his
66 The Whispering Winds.
father some day, erect and stately like a young
northern pine, with the light firm tread and the
keen clear sight of the mountaineer, and the grace
which twenty dancing masters couldn't have
taught him so well as his free active open-air
life. And his mother had given him something
too, though she only held him in her arms once,
poor lady. For, while she clasped her little boy
and looked into his eyes and kissed his lips, she
gave him a heart as tender as her own, full of the
strong deep love which Northern hearts know
well, and a spirit as pure and sweet as the springs
that rise up cold and clear among the heather.
He knew almost before he could walk that he
was going to grow up into a great warrior.
Hadn't he been sung to sleep with stories of
bygone battles, nay, hadn't he a minstrel all to
himself, a white-haired old harper, whose business
it was to make songs on purpose for him, and tell
him all that his ancestors had done ever since the
castle was built above the river? He had no
history books, you see; that worthy lady, Mrs.
Markham, was not writing in those days, so that
Ronald had not the advantage of knowing what
The Green Bridal. 67
Master Richard thought about the feudal system,
or of hearing Master George reproved for allow-
ing his dazzled imagination to run away with
his judgment. But he knew what it was to sit at
old Dugall's feet on a winter night, when the
peats and the pine logs glowed the brighter
because of the snow and darkness without, and
68 The Whispering Winds.
made the ruddy light dance on the old man's
white hair and beard and the eager listening face
of the young chief, to hear long rambling songs
about Ronalds and Lauchlans and Eachauns who
had gone forth to war, and come home triumphant
with honour and spoil, or been borne back in
mournful procession, with a blood-stained plaid
for a winding-sheet. And young Ronald would
spring up and try to wield his father's claymore,
and wish that ten thousand enemies would come
that he might show that the spirit of his ancestors
was not dead. And the sturdy clansmen would
look on well pleased, and vow that their young
chief would be a gallant warrior.
Well, you will think that there were plenty of
people to encourage my hero in his taste for
fighting, but not many to call out the love and
tenderness which I told you his mother left him
when she died. Wait a minute and you shall
hear, for I haven't yet come to the person who
had the most to do with this story.
One stormy night, when young Ronald was
quite a little boy, there was knocking heard at
the castle door and voices piteously begging for
The Green Bridal. 69
shelter. Now if the very worst enemy of the
family had come there with such a request as
that,' he would have been let in directly, and
would have found welcome and the best food the
house contained, and been set on his way next
day when the storm was over. But that night
when the door was thrown back, there were only
two people, a tall man and a woman with a
bundle in her arms, with a young stag-hound at
their heels. They were blinded by the snow and
numbed by the cold, but when they heard where
they were they forgot everything in their joy, for
it was to the castle they had been trying in the
darkness to find their way.
The woman undid her bundle, and showed,
wrapped up in a plaid, the most beautiful little
baby girl, fast asleep and quite warm and safe.
All the household gathered round to wonder and
admire, and young Ronald, who had never seen
anything like her in his little life before, cried out
to know whether it were a fairy or an angel.
Then the man and woman, who had begun to get
back their wits and their breath with the warmth
and kindness, told that the child was the daughter
70 The Whispering Winds.
of a neighboring chief-that their home had
been burnt by a hostile clan, who had come down
upon them with fire and sword and killed every one
except this child, who had been carried out of the
general slaughter by her nurse and her father's
harper. They hid with their little lady among the
mountains, and the stag-hound, who had been
their chieftain's favourite, came with them and
would not leave them. They had been trying all
that day to find our chieftain's castle, knowing he
had been a friend and ally of their murdered
master and would give shelter to his orphan child.
Of course they were not mistaken. Ronald the
chief wept, as brave men then were not ashamed
to do, over his comrade's sad death, and vowed
that when the spring came the hostile clan should
learn that he had friends to avenge him. And
indeed they did, for he exterminated them alto-
gether, which sounds rather shocking, but was
quite correct, according to his ideas of justice and
friendship. As for the little girl, he declared
she should be like his own, and should grow up
with his young Ronald like a daughter of the
house. Finella the nurse had a warm seat by the
The Green Bridal. 71
fireside, and Diarmaid the bard sat on the same
bench as Dugall, and quarrelled with him all day
long as to which family had been the most dis-
tinguished, and was descended in the longest
unbroken line from the kings of Scotland. And
Luath the hound lay before the great fire, and no
doubt argued with Ronald's hounds about whose
master had killed the most deer.
And in young Ronald's wooden cradle the fair-
faced baby lay, like a lily blooming among last
year's brown leaves. Dugall made a song about a
violet that came to grow under a great black rock
for shelter from the storm, and young Ronald
understood what it meant directly.
"Yes, yes," he cried, "little Eva is the violet,
and I will be the rock and never let the wind
come near her."
From which you may perceive that our young
chief knew something of poetry, even though he
couldn't repeat the rules of prosody and pick out
the obsolete words in a play of Shakespeare, as
you clever young people can.
And little Eva lived and throve in the castle by
the river, and grew into the fairest maiden you
72 The Whispering Winds.
ever dreamed of. I can't draw a bit, children.
If I could I would show her to you, only the
prettiest picture wouldn't be half pretty enough.
I couldn't find a colour pure enough for her fair
skin, or bright enough for the golden locks which
fell like a shining cloud almost to her knees. And
I couldn't show you her springing step, or paint
her merry laugh or the light that danced in her
roguish eyes, or the little toss of her proud head
that sent the golden hair shining over her shoulders.
I don't think she was vain exactly; she had known
how beautiful she was ever since she began to
know anything, and it came to her as a matter of
course. The flowers talked to each other about
her as she came down the hillside.
Bend your heads," cried one harebell to the
others, "here comes Eva. Bow to her all of you,
see how beautiful she is."
Eva, beautiful Eva," cried the river, "come
and look into me. I have a mirror where you can
see your fair self, come and make a picture in my
Look," said an old cock grouse to his family
as he sat on a gray rock by the narrow sheep
The Green Bridal. 73
track through the heather, "there is Eva, the
violet flower who came to grow under the rock.
That's what Dugall sang about her when first she
came. I've heard my great-grandfather talk about
it scores of times. Isn't she the bonniest flower
in all the glen?"
I daresay she is," said the lady grouse, a trifle
doubtfully (she was of a more critical nature than
her husband), "but with all respect to Dugall I
think he might have found a better simile. To
my mind Eva is not the least bit in the world like
And indeed, children, the lady grouse was per-
fectly right, that is to say if the violet is really the
modest quiet retiring flower we learnt about in
our nursery poetry books. For never in all the
world was there a maiden more wilful and more
wayward than the golden-haired maiden of the
glen. You see she had had her own way ever
since she could remember, she didn't know what
it was to want anything and be refused it. At the
castle, nay, all up the glen, every man, woman,
and child did her bidding. The old chieftain, the
head of his clan, the terror of his enemies, was
74 The Whispering Winds.
Eva's humble servant; she could have twisted
him round her finger, led him with a thread of her
golden hair. And what about young Ronald?
Why from that very first evening when the orphan
baby was carried into the castle hall, that strong
tender heart of young Ronald's was Eva's to do
what she liked with, and between you and me,
she didn't half know what a treasure she'd got.
It was just like her bonnie face and her yellow
locks, she had been used to having Ronald at her
beck and call ever since she could remember, and
so she never thought about him. That's the way
with us all, I'm afraid. We don't go down on our
knees with thankfulness when roses bloom in the
summer, or cry out how happy we are because
the autumn makes all the woods into fairyland;
more's the pity, I say, we lose a great deal by
getting used to beautiful things.
And ever since Eva learnt to walk she had
looked upon it as a sort of right that Ronald
should leave whatever he was doing to give her
the help of his strong young arm. If she wanted a
flower, Ronald must get it, even if he ran the risk
of breaking his neck, or getting swept away by
The Green Bridal. 75
the river, or drowned in a bog; it was all in his
day's work, it was part of his business, and she
needn't bother if she forgot to thank him for it.
Once when they were children on the hill together
they lighted on a wild cat with young ones, who
flew at them savagely, and looked as if she were
disposed to spoil Eva's beauty for good and all.
But Ronald caught the fierce creature and held
her tight in his strong hands, and never made a
sound, though she bit and tore his arm, till he had
strangled the life out of her. And then he just
threw the plaid over his arm, so that Eva mightn't
see it bleeding. But Eva never thought about it,
she was so anxious to have the cat's skin for her-
self. So Ronald set his teeth and walked on after
her, carrying the dead cat, and afterwards Finella
tied his arm up for him, and said nothing about it
as he asked her not to.
Well, all this time young Ronald was growing
into a warrior like his father, only he was a finer
fellow even than his father had ever been, and all
over the country they spoke his name with pride,
and minstrels made songs about him and vowed
his fame would reach through the length and
76 The Wkispering Winds.
breadth of Scotland one day. And as they sang
of his strength and prowess they sang too of the
wondrous beauty of bonnie Eva, his promised
bride. For no one had ever had any doubt that
Ronald and Eva were made for one another.
Ronald's father had settled that long ago; and of
course the young chief was ready enough, and
Eva never troubled her head one way or the
other. But now Ronald the elder was getting on
in years and wanted to see his son married, and
young Ronald felt as if he should like to make
sure of the happiness of having Eva for his own,
because it was something so altogether delightful
that he simply couldn't feel sure of it till it came
true. But Eva was in no hurry. The first time
Ronald asked her if she were not ready to be a
bride it was a winter evening, when she sat in the
red fire-glow spinning, with the young chief on a
wooden stool at her feet and Luath on the other
side, and she took much more notice of Luath.
"It is my father's will, Eva," he said. He
didn't say "it is mine", Ronald never did.
But Eva pouted her red lips.
It is surely not his will to have a wedding in
The Green Bridal. 77
the depth of winter," she said. It is ungallant
of you, Ronald; would you rob me of all my
'.' q l:i f
finery? You men think only of your own pleasure.
Would you have me a bride in furs?"
78 The Whispering Winds.
"You would be bonnie in sackcloth, my Eva,"
said he. But you are right, we will wait for the
flowers and the spring-time."
But when the snow melted and the first flowers
showed themselves still Eva was for waiting.
"A bridal procession with bare boughs!" she
cried. "Fie on you, Ronald! Time enough
when the birch-wood is in leaf."
But when the birch-wood lay like a green mantle
on the hillside Eva vowed they should never make
a bride of her till the heather was in bloom. She
laughed at the disappointed faces of the two
"There, I pledge you my word I'll wed when
the hills are purple," she cried. Do you think I
shall take wings and fly away, or vanish in a night
like the fairy castles?"
Have a care, have a care, my child!" cried
Finella. Guide your tongue, my dear, when
you speak of the Good Neighbours, bless them."
SNow you poor people who don't know any
northern fairy tales won't understand this, I dare-
say, so I must stop and explain. When you talk
about fairies you think of a certain dream that
The Green Bridal. 79
somebody dreamt one twenty-third of June, and of
moonlight, and people who swing on harebells, and
only play such pranks as a lot of good-natured
little beings just overflowing with fun and frolic
might indulge in now and again. Well, Northern
fairies aren't like that. They're a gloomy, ill-
tempered lot of beings, who've made a muddle of
their own lives and want to spoil other people's.
They have their dances and their processions and
their feasts, but the glories of them are all a sham;
the gold-laced gowns are made of tinsel and the
jewels made of glass, and, what's worse, the ban-
quets are nothing but brown paper and sawdust.
Now, pretending is all very well for a bit if every-
body enters into the joke, but if one of the party
keeps on saying that the roast-beef on the doll's
plate is really an Albert biscuit, and can't make
the elephant out of the Noah's Ark do duty for
venison, why, the fun's all over, isn't it? And the
fairies had got tired of pretending ages ago, and
were always grumbling and growling and scolding
each other, and envying human beings who were
real and substantial.
And there was nothing they liked so much as
8o The Whispering Winds.
to carry off something belonging to a mortal man,
something that wouldn't go off into nothing like a
soap-bubble, or, better still, a mortal man himself.
And so they were not altogether pleasant people
to have about. And though our friends in the
glen were not a bit afraid of anything made of
flesh and blood, they didn't care for facing shadowy,
unsatisfactory creatures, who wouldn't be a bit the
worse if you ran a sword right through them.
So they always spoke very politely of the fairies in
case any of them should be eavesdropping, which
was a nasty way they had, and called them the
Peaceful Folk or the Good Neighbours, which
were horrid fibs, and didn't deceive the fairies
Now I think I said that just opposite the castle
on the river bank there was a bit of bright green
turf, the most brilliant green you ever saw, like an
emerald in a dark setting, and there, so said the
old people, who were wise about such things, the
Good Neighbours had their wild dances on moon-
light nights, and everybody who didn't want to be
spirited off to their dreary, dreamy world had better
keep out of the way. Finella knew all sorts of
The Green Bridal. 81
stories about them, which she would tell in the long
winter evenings; how they sometimes carried off
babies when their mothers' backs were turned and
put their own ugly little children in their places,
and how they had power sometimes even to bewitch
the souls out of people's bodies and take them to
live with them clad in forms that were not their
own, and weary and wear out their sad lives among
the shadows and the tinsel of the fairy-land.
Finella always spoke under her breath and very
cautiously, lest any of the Peaceful Folk should be
listening, and was dreadfully worried because Eva
would laugh out loud, and speak in most disre-
spectful terms of the Good Neighbours, and would
even linger on the fairy dancing-ground in the
gloaming, just to see if she could get a sight of
their green gowns as they tripped to and fro.
And now, when everything was settled about
the wedding, and all the glen folks were bidden to
the feast, what must the bride do but vow that she
would be married in green. Finella cried out in
horror at the bare idea. Wear green at the bridal!
the colour that belonged to the fairies-she begged
their pardon, the Good Neighbours-the colour
82 Thee Whispering Winds.
which no mortal should dare to wear within twenty
miles of their haunts! Mercy on us all, was their
bonnie lady gone demented? Even Ronald
remonstrated gently; Eva would never want to
have an ill omen on their bridal-day, and she
looked so fair in anything, she was not bound to
wear any particular colour.
But Eva pouted. No colour suited her so well
as the bonnie green. It was the hunting colour,
the proper dress for a mountain maid; and,
besides, it was her choice, and she was not used
to ask anyone's leave when she chose her gowns.
And then she turned round upon her bridegroom
and asked was he afraid? Did he really fear what
the spiteful fairies might do to him ? She always
thought the lords of the glen were afraid of nothing,
but it seemed she was mistaken.
Then Ronald's sunburnt face flushed dark red,
and he bit his lip as if Eva's little hand had struck
him a blow, and then said quite gently:
No, my Eva, I am not afraid. Dress yourself
for your bridal as you will."
And so Eva had her way, though Finella
trembled and wept and fastened some leaves of
The Green Bridal. 83
the rowan-tree into the young lady's dress, which,
as everyone knows, are a wonderful safeguard
You never saw a more glorious day than that
upon which the wedding was held. The hills
wore the imperial purple of their heather robe,
with a fringe of gold where the bracken was
withering. The sky was the clear pale blue of a
northern sky, with great white clouds crossing it
like stately ships in full sail, and laying broad
shadows across the mountain sides. And such a
gallant procession it was that came winding up
the valley towards the castle, when the wedding
was over and nothing remained but to dance and
sing and feast all the rest of the day and night.
The pipers played merry music, and the maidens
wore their gayest gowns, and everyone vowed
that so bonnie a bride and bridegroom never trod
the heather. Eva had been right when she said
that her green gown became her well. Ronald
looked at her as if he had no thoughts for any-
thing else in the world, and the old chief never
took his eyes off the pair.
And so they walked together through the sun-
84 The Wh/ispering Winds.
shine until they reached the castle, and Ronald
stepped first over the threshold and held Eva's
hand to lead her in, when something made them
pause, for just at that moment a strange scornful
mocking laugh sounded as if from the air above
them, making them start and look up, though
there was nothing to be seen. Three times it
sounded, making the gay bridal party shiver and
tremble, only Eva, in her pride and her beauty,
laughed back again as if in scorn. But the laugh
died away on her lips as she felt her bridegroom's
warm strong hand grow cold in her own, and saw
a strange gray shadow creep over his face, and
then without a word or a cry he fell forward on
the threshold, and lay there still at her feet.
Old Finella shrieked:
"The fairies, I knew it, 'tis their vengeance!
Oh, woe worth the day!"
And those around, as they pressed up in terror
to where the young chief lay, whispered to each
"The green gown! Alack, alack! ill ever
comes of daring the Good Neighbours!"
The old chief knelt down by the side of his son,
The Green Bridal.
86 The Whispering Winds.
and lifted his head and gazed into the white face;
but Eva stood still on the threshold with the
colour dying out of her cheeks and her rosy lips,
like a beautiful figure of stone.
But the clansmen, as you know, were not even-
tempered people, and as they saw their gallant
young chief, the hope and pride of them all, lying
there as if he were dead, their wild loyal hearts
rose up in fury against her who done the mischief,
and they turned upon Eva with such looks as she
had never met before.
"Go!" they cried fiercely. "Go out from
among us! Curse of our chief and our clan, go
hence lest we slay you!" And even the old chief
who had made her his daughter, raised not a hand
to stop them.
But Eva needed no second bidding. Even
before they spoke, before the fierce claymores and
shining dirks were bared in the sunshine by the
very men who for years had been her loving
servants, she threw up her hands with one little
cry of horror, and fled, fled from among them
all, while the men frowned and the women
shrank back from her touch, fled down the hill-
The Green Bridal. 87
side away from those whom she had made so
I don't think she knew where she was going.
She felt as if she were running away from a
dreadful dream. She felt still the cold touch of
Ronald's fingers as they loosed their clasp, and
saw the look on his face which was not even a
reproach, when he fell at her feet. It was that, and
not the bare dirks and broadswords, which urged
her flying feet away, away, as if she could fly from
the remembrance. She did not even stop when
she reached the river. It was not deep there, but
I don't think Eva would have minded if it had
been. She plunged straight in, and in the strength
of her horror and remorse she struggled through
the stream to the other side, across the fairy
dancing-ground, and so up the steep hillside on
and on, never looking where she was going, till
her strength failed her at last, and in the gray of
the evening she sank down exhausted among the
heather and lay still, with her face buried in her
hands and her glorious hair shining like a stray
sunbeam in the gathering darkness.
She did not care that night was coming on, that
88 The Whispering Winds.
the wind was moaning and the clouds gathering,
and that she had nothing to eat; she only knew
that her wilful folly had killed Ronald, her noble
bridegroom, and that she knew-now that she
had lost him-what that treasure had been which
she had held so lightly. And so she lay there
and sobbed and wailed in the rising storm, until
by and by she felt something cold against her
hand, and then a gentle touch on her neck, push-
ing aside the heavy waves of hair. And as
she looked up drearily she saw Luath, her old
faithful hound, standing over her, and behind him,
weeping and clinging together, stood Diarmaid
the bard and Finella, who had brought her when
she was a baby to the castle by the river. She
sprang up and would have pushed them away
from her, but they seized her hands and held her
tight and would not let her go, while they cried
over her and kissed her cold fingers and called
her their own lady, their dear lady. Then a
dreadful thought struck Eva.
Have they turned you out because you are
my friends?" she cried. "Oh! wretched that I
am, have I ruined you too?"
The Green Bridal. 89
But the faithful old servants said no, it was not
so, the chief was good and just and would never
have let them go, but that they were bound to
follow Eva, and they would follow her, their own
lady, to the world's end.
Then the maiden wept afresh, such tears as her
bright eyes had never shed before.
But this must not be, my friends," she said.
" Though you are so good, so much too good to
me, you cannot help me now. I must dree my
weary, weary weird alone."
But where will you go, my poor Eva, my dear
lady?" sobbed old Finella.
I will wander over the world till I die," said
Eva, "with no rest and no home, bearing the
badge of my wicked wilfulness;" and she pointed
to the green dress, all torn and draggled by her
passage through the river. "You are old, my
friends, and your limbs would fail you, but I am
young and strong and so my penance will last the
And then, as they still vowed they would never
leave her, she knelt humbly down before them, as
she had never knelt to any one in her life.
90 The Whispering Winds.
Go back, if indeed you love me," she prayed
them; "go to the chief and say that Eva prays
him, for the love he once bore her, to give you
shelter. Say that Eva will do penance for her
sins till flesh and blood shall fail, and then she will
crawl to where Ronald lies, and pray them of their
charity to lay her beside him.'
So the two old servants turned away weeping,
but when she would have bidden Luath follow
them, he refused to leave her, and pressed close to
her side and would not be sent away. And so
Eva, in her tattered green dress with the faithful
old dog beside her, went away over the wide lonely
moor into the darkness and the storm. For the
clouds had gathered thick and dark, and the wind
came howling down the corries, and the rain
poured down in torrents on the girl's bare head.
Once in her life before Eva had come through
such a wild storm, borne asleep and happy in the
arms of her good friends to a warm welcome and
a safe shelter; but now she had no shelter to go
to, she had ruined the happy home which had
taken her in so readily, and there was no home
for her now any more. The air seemed full of
The Green Bridal. 91
wild voices, fierce shouts, mocking laughter, but
she did not feel afraid of them even though she
wore the green gown; she felt as if the evil
powers had done their worst with her, and she
was too miserable now for them to hurt her any
All that night the storm lasted and all the
next day, and still Eva wandered on, struggling
through the deep heather and breasting the hills
in the teeth of the fierce gale. She hardly felt
the wet and cold, except to remember how often
Ronald's plaid had sheltered her from the rain
and wind, and Ronald's arm had guided her over
rough places, and helped her up the mountains.
And she had never thanked him, never thought
about his goodness at all until now, when it was
over for ever. And so she wandered on and on,
hardly knowing that she was tired, and cold, and
hungry, though Luath, who had no dreadful
remorseful thoughts troubling his clear conscience,
rubbed up against her and tried to suggest that
there was such a thing as dinner. But Eva
hardly noticed him, and so, like the well-bred dog
he was, he didn't press the subject. And, indeed,
92 The Whispering Winds.
he hardly knew his young mistress with her
piteous white face and the wild look in her bonnie
eyes. But Eva, though she was as strong and
enduring as a mountain maiden ought to be,
couldn't go walking on for ever, and so at last,
when the day of storm and rain was drawing
towards evening, she sank down on the wet
heather and wondered if the time had not come
for her to die. But she didn't die, she just fell
fast asleep and slept for hours, forgetting all about
everything, while Luath watched over her.
When she woke the storm was over. The
wind wailed still, but softly, like far away crying,
and the moon was struggling out between the
rain clouds and shedding a pale eerie light upon
the wide dark moor and gleaming water-courses.
Eva lay still, because she dreaded to wake up
thoroughly and remember the dreadful thing that
had happened, and just then Luath gave a low
growl and she saw the hair bristle all along his
.back. Then she sat up, and put her wet locks
from before her eyes and threw her arm round the
old dog's neck to keep him still. But Luath, who
never feared the fiercest wolf, and would have
.~p~ ""T~ii~i(;: ~i~?SS
~il~c~ 2--.. t,'
~~s~ 4;8 ~t j;
::~t~i 1 ,
THE ELF-KNIGHTS HOLD REVEL ON THE HILLS.
The Green Bridal. 93
faced an army to defend his mistress, cowered
down under her hand, and whined as if he were
afraid. And Eva, as she lay half hidden among
the bracken and the juniper bushes, saw two
figures like knights on horseback coming over the
hillside into the pale moonlight. Gallant gentle-
men they looked, tricked out in all manner of
bravery, and with green mantles hanging from
their shoulders and bells on their horses' bridles.
And all in a moment Eva knew that they were
the fairies, holding a moonlight revel on the hills.
But she did not feel afraid, even though she knew
that the Peaceful Folk would be furious if they
found they had been spied upon, for, as she said,
what more could they do to hurt her now. So
she lay still where she was, and the elf-knights
passed so close that she could almost have
touched them, and could hear every word of their
"A fair moonlight night for our riding," said one,
in a voice hollow and echoing like a dying wind.
"We want but one thing to our Queen's train,"
said the other discontentedly, "our bonnie captive
may not ride with us to-night."
94 The W/ispering Winds.
"Not he," said the other, 'tis too pure and
brave a soul to be slave to fairy folk; we would
have done better to take the maiden."
"Not so," said the first speaker, "we struck a
harder blow when we carried off the young chief's
bonnie form, and, if the soul be too fair a thing for
us to meddle with, the flesh that clothed it is ours
"Aye," said the other with a shrill eerie laugh,
"so they harm not the form we have left them in
"Not they," said the first mockingly, "not
they, poor souls. No, no; our pasteboard chief
will have a stately burying, and they will never
guess but that they cry their coronach and sing
their psalms over the real Ronald. Ah! if they
had but a little of our eye-salve, wouldd be 'into
the fire' with the gallant form we lent them, and
we should have to give them their own chief back
No fear of that," laughed the other. Hist!
And sure enough there was the Elfin Queen
in her robe of grass-green silk, and the silver bells
The Green Bridal. 95
on her horse's mane, as the old ballad tells us, and
after her came all the fairy train, knights and
ladies wondrous fine to be seen, unless one had
the fairy eye-salve, which spoilt the whole pro-
cession. The two knights who had been talking
took their places among the rest, and on they
went with bridles jingling and plumes waving and
jewels gleaming in the pale moonlight. And as
they passed, Eva threw both her arms round
Luath's neck to keep him from moving, and held
her own breath for fear they should notice her.
Why did she do that when a few minutes ago
she had not cared what the fairies did to her?
Why, just because in those few minutes all the
world had changed to her, because a wild hope
had come unto her heart, and a light into her eyes
that were so dim with tears. And she was think-
ing of some old tales that she used to laugh at,
about people whose bodies had been exchanged
for sham ones by the fairies, and who had seemed
to be pining and dying, till they were saved by
their friends destroying the false form they wore,
when the fairies were forced to bring back the
96 The Whisperinag Win ds.
That was why her own safety grew suddenly
to be such a precious thing, because perhaps it
might mean Ronald's too. So she waited till
the fairy procession had all passed by, and then
she rose up with a new look on her white face.
Old Luath looked up at her as if he didn't quite
understand, and was asking what she wanted, and
Eva looked down into his soft truthful eyes.
Luath," she said, I want to go home as fast
as may be."
Luath understood directly; there wasn't much
he didn't understand, I believe. He gave a little
sniff, as you or I would have given a nod, and
off he went over the hill towards home at a good
round pace, and yet not too fast for Eva to follow.
She had not come so very far after all; you see,
she had never noticed where she was going, and
so she went back over the same ground and
wandered round and round, not looking to see
whether the country were strange or familiar.
But Luath's eyes had been open all the time, and
he must have thought his mistress' behaviour
strange, though he was too much of a gentleman
to remark upon it. But now that she said she
The Green Bridal. 97
wanted to go home Luath knew what he was
about, and thought it a capital idea, and straight
home he led her; so that, just at the dark still
hour before the dawn, they stood on the river
bank opposite the castle in the glen. The river
ran deep and strong, swollen by the rain, but Eva
never waited and neither did Luath. He plunged
straight into the water and the maiden clung to
his neck, and together they got through the
yellow stream with its white foam crests, and
reached the bank gasping and dripping. Up to
the castle door they sped, Eva with the wild hope
in her eyes, and old Luath close at her heels, not
understanding a bit but knowing that he had to
take care of her.
The door was not fastened, I'm sure I don't
know why; perhaps everybody was too unhappy
to think about it, or perhaps they felt, as Eva
had done, that nothing worse could happen to
them now. At any rate the girl pushed the
door open and went noiselessly into the hall.
It was all quite still. The fire had died out,
and the ashes on the hearth looked cold and
gray and cheerless. But there were two great
98 The Whispering Winds.
pine-wood torches held in iron sockets on the
wall, and they shed a strange wild light on the
bier in the middle of the hall on which the body
of the young chief lay. There had been some
watchers beside it, young Ronald's favourite piper
and Dugall the harper, and there were others
stretched upon the floor round the cold hearth;
but in that dark hour before the dawn there falls
such a weight of slumber upon the world that the
tired eyes of the watchers came under its spell.
They were all asleep in the great silence, and
no one heard Eva as she stepped softly across the
floor to the side of Ronald's bier. And as she
looked by the torchlight upon the form of her
bridegroom, she forgot what she had come for and
dropped on her knees and hid her face. For it
seemed to her that her chiefs very self lay there,
so still and grand, with his tartans falling in stately
wise around him. His claymore lay beside him,
and his head was bare, so that the light gleamed
on his yellow hair. His face was calm and
noble, and seemed to Eva to reproach her all the
more because there was no look of anger upon it.
And poor Eva, who had no fairy eye-salve to
T/ze Green Bridal. 99
show her the truth, felt as if she had no power to
do violence to the form that seemed so noble and
And so she knelt with her head bowed, and
longed to die for her wilfulness by Ronald's side.
It was Luath who made her look up, giving a low
growl beside her. Luath loved Ronald dearly,
he always went hunting with the young chief, and
would bound even from his mistress' side to meet
him; but now Luath was looking at Ronald's form,
with his white teeth showing, and his hair brist-
ling as if in fury. And then Eva noticed that
none of the other dogs, who always lay round the
fire, were in the hall. Had they been turned out
because they were wiser than their betters, and
wanted no fairy eye-salve to tell them that he who
lay there was not their master? The thought
gave Eva courage. She rose to her feet, and
took one of the blazing pine torches in her hand.
"Oh, Ronald," she said, "if this is yourself,
forgive me once again."
And then she turned her head lest the sight
of the grand calm face should take away her
courage, and with the torch in her hand she set