Part 2 out of 7
utterly helpless. When he was able to look up again he saw the woman
moving towards him round the Pond, and suddenly he clapped his hands
over his eyes and fled towards the Ring, as though pursued by
demons. Here he passed the remainder of the night, but in what sort
of prayers I leave you to imagine; as also amid what ravings he
passed his Sunday.
On Monday the Lad was again before him at the forge, and a crow's
wing had looked milky beside his face. He did not raise his eyes as
the King came in, but said:
"You look very ill." He said it furiously.
"I have had nightmares," said the King. "Pardon me if you can. I
will get to work and make my final shoe."
But though he now had little more to learn in his craft, the Lad,
when the shoe was made, picked it up in his pincers and flung it to
the other end of the forge; yet the King now knew enough to know
that few smiths could have made its equal. So he looked surprised;
at which the Lad, controlling himself, said:
"When I pass your fourth shoe you will need no more masters--I
forged a shoe like that one yonder when I was fifteen, and my father
said of it, You will make a smith one day.'"
And on neither Tuesday nor Wednesday nor Thursday nor Friday could
the King succeed in pleasing the Lad; the better his shoes the
angrier grew his young master that they were not good enough. Yet
between these gusts of temper he was gentle and remorseful, and once
the King saw tears in his eyes, and another time the Lad came humbly
to ask for pardon. Then William laughed and put out his hand, but,
as once before, the Lad slipped his behind his back and said:
"It is so dirty, friend."
And this time he would not let William take it. So the King was
forced instead to lay his arm about the Lad's shoulder, and press it
tenderly; but the Lad made no response, and only stood hanging his
head until the King removed his arm. All the same, when next the
King made a shoe he was full of rage, and stamped on it, and ran out
of the forge. Which surprised the King all the more because it was
so excellent a shoe. Yet he was secretly glad of its rejection, for
he felt it would break his heart to go away from that place; and he
could think of no good cause for remaining, once Pepper was shod. So
there he stayed, eating, sleeping, and working, while the thews of
his back became as strong under the smooth skin as the thews of a
beech-tree under the smooth bark; and his craft was such that the
Lad at last left the whole of the work of the forge in his charge.
For there was nothing he could not do surpassingly well. And this
the Lad admitted, save only in the case of the fourth shoe.
But on Saturday, just before closing-time, the King set to and made
a shoe so fine that when the Lad saw it he said quietly, "I could
not make a better." Had he not said so he must have lied, or proved
that he did know a masterpiece when he saw it. And he too good a
craftsman for that, besides being honest.
Pepper instantly lifted up her near hind-foot.
"Upon my word!" exclaimed the King, "the world is full of stones,
and Pepper has found them all. The wonder is that she did not fall
down on the road."
"This is not a stone," said the Lad, "it is an opal."
And he displayed an opal of such marvelous changeability, such milk
and fire shot with such shifting rainbows, that it was as though it
had had birth of all the moods of all the women of all time.
"This enriches you for life," said the Lad gloomily, "and now you
are free of masters for ever."
But William thrust his hands into his pockets. "Keep it," he said,
"for this week you have given me love, and I have given you nothing
but the sinews of my body."
The Lad looked at him and said, "I have given you hard words, and
fits of temper, and much injustice."
"Have you?" said William. "I remember only your tenderness and your
tears. So keep the opal in love's name."
The Lad tried to answer, but could not; and he slipped the opal
under his shirt. Then he faltered, "My Great-Aunt--" and still he
could not speak. But he made a third effort, and said, "There is a
cake in the larder," and turned on his heel and went away quickly.
And the King looked after him till he was out of sight, and then
very slowly went to his bath and his fresh linen. But he left the
cake where it was.
And he sat by the door of the forge with his face in his hands until
the length of his shadow warned him that he must go. And he rose and
went for the last time up the hill, but with a sinking heart; and
when he stood on the top and gazed upon the beauty of the earth he
had left below, in his breast was the ache of loss and longing for
one he had loved, and with his eyes he tried to draw that beauty
into himself, but the void in him remained unfulfilled. Yet never
had her beauty been so great.
"Beloved and lovely earth!" he whispered, "why do you appear most
fair and most desirable now that I am about to lose you? Why when I
had you did you not hold me by force, and tell me what you were?
Only now I discover you from mid-heaven--but oh! in what way should
I discover you from heaven itself?" And he looked upward, and lo! a
blurred sun shone upon him, swimming to its rest. "Farewell, dear
earth!" said the King. "Since you cannot mount to me, and I may not
descend to you." And he knelt upon the turf and laid his cheek and
forehead to it, and then he rose, sealed up his lips, and passed
into the Ring.
Between the two tall beeches he sank down, and all sense and thought
and consciousness sank with him, as though his being had become a
dead forgotten lake, hidden in a lifeless wood; where birds sang
not, nor rain fell, nor fishes played, nor currents moved below the
stagnant waters. But presently a wind seemed to wail among the
trees, and the sound of it traveled over the King's senses, stirred
them, and passed. But only to return again, moan over him, and trail
away; and so it kept coming and going till first he heard, then
listened to, and at last realized the haunting signal of the bird.
And he went forth into the open night, his eyes wide apart but
seeing nothing until he stumbled at the Pond and crouched beside it.
The bird grew fainter and fainter, and presently the sound, like a
ghost at dawn, ceased to exist; and at that instant, under the Pond,
he beheld the lessening circle of the moon, and dipped his head.
Alas! when he lifted it, shivering and stunned, he saw the form he
longed to see on the other side of the Pond; but not, as he had
longed to see it, gazing at him with the love and glory of seven
nights ago. Now she stood on the turf, half turned from him, and the
wave of her hair blew to and fro like a cloud, now revealing her
white side, now concealing it. And he looked, but she would not
look. So he knelt on his side and she remained on hers, both
motionless. And suddenly the impulse to sneeze arose within him, and
at that instant she began to move--not towards him, as before, but
away from him, downhill.
At that he could bear no more, and quelling the impulse with a
mighty effort, he got upon his feet crying, "Beloved, stay! Beloved,
And he staggered round the Pound as quickly as his shaking knees
would let him; but quicker still she slid away, and when he came
where she had been the place was as empty as the sky in its moonless
season. He called and ran about and called again; but he got no
answer, nor found what he sought. All that night he spent in calling
and running to and fro. What he did on Sunday you may know, and I
may know, but he did not. On Sunday night he stayed beside the Pond,
but whatever his hopes were they received no fulfillment. On Monday
night he was there again, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday; and
between the mornings and the nights he went from hill to hill,
seeking her hiding-place who came to bathe in the lake. There was
not a hill within a day's march that did not know him, from Duncton
to Mount Harry. But on none of them he found the Woman. How he lived
is a puzzle. Perhaps upon wild raspberries.
After the sun had set on Chanctonbury on Saturday night, he came
exhausted to the Ring again, and stood on that high hill gazing
earthward. But there was no light above or below, and he said:
"I have lost all. For the earth is swallowed in blackness, and the
Woman has disappeared into space, and I myself have cast away my
spiritual initiation. I will sit by the Pond till midnight, and if
the bird sings then I will still hope, but if it does not I will dip
my head in the water and not lift it again."
So he went and lay down by the Pond in the darkness, and the hours
wore away. But as the time of the bird's song drew near he clasped
his hands and prayed. But the bird did not sing; and when he judged
that midnight was come, he got upon his knees and prepared to put
his head under the water. And as he did so he saw, on the opposite
side of the Pond, the feeble light of a lantern. He could not see
who held it, because even as he looked the bearer blew out the
light; but in that moment it appeared to him that she was as black
as the night itself.
So for awhile he knelt upon his side, and she remained on hers, both
trembling; but at last the King, dreading to startle her away, rose
softly and went round the Pond to where he had seen her.
He said into the night in a shaking voice, "I cannot see you. If you
are there, give me your hand."
And out of the night a shaking voice replied:
"It is so dirty, beloved."
Then he took her in his arms, and felt how she trembled, and he held
her closely to him to still her, whispering:
"You are my Lad."
"Yes," she said in a low voice. "But wait."
And she slipped out of his embrace, and he heard her enter the Pond,
and she stayed there as it seemed to him a lifetime; but presently
she rose up, and even in that black night the whiteness of her body
was visible to him, and she came to him as she was and laid her head
on his breast and said:
"I am your Woman."
("I want my apple," said Martin Pippin.
"But is this the end?" cried little Joan.
"Why not?" said Martin. "The lovers are united."
Joscelyn: Nonsense! Of course it is not the end! You must tell us a
thousand other things. Why was the Woman a woman on Saturday night
and a lad all the rest of the week?
Joyce: What of the four jewels?
Jennifer: Which of the answers to the King's riddle was the right
Jessica: What happened to the cake?
Jane: What was her name?
"Please," said little Joan, "do not let this be the end, but tell us
what they did next."
"Women will be women," observed Martin, "and to the end of time
prefer unessentials to the essential. But I will endeavor to satisfy
you on the points you name.")
In the morning William said to his beloved:
"Now tell me something of yourself. How come you to be so masterful
a smith? Why do you live as a black Lad all the week and turn only
into a white Woman on Saturdays? Have you really got a Great-Aunt,
and where does she live? How old are you? Why were you so hard to
please about the shoeing of Pepper? And why, the better my shoes the
worse your temper? Why did you run away from me a week ago? Why did
you never tell me who you were? Why have you tormented me for a
whole month? What is your name?"
"Trust a man to ask questions!" said his beloved, laughing and
blushing. "Is it not enough that I am your beloved?"
"More than enough, yet not nearly enough," said the King, "for there
is nothing of yourself which you must not tell me in time, from the
moment when you first stole barley sugar behind your father's back,
down to that in which you first loved me."
"Then I had best begin at once," she smiled, "or a lifetime will not
be long enough. I am eighteen years old and my name is Viola. I was
born in Falmer, and my father was the best smith in all Sussex, and
because he had no other child he made me his bellows-boy, and in
time, as you know, taught me his trade. But he was, as you also
know, a stern master, and it was not until, on my sixteenth
birthday, I forged a shoe the equal of your last, that he said I
could not make a better.' And so saying he died. Now I had no other
relative in all the world except my Great-Aunt, the Wise Woman of
the Bush Hovel, and her I had never seen; but I thought I could not
do better in my extremity than go to her for counsel. So,
shouldering my father's tools, I journeyed west until I came to her
place, and found her trying to break in a new birch-broom that was
still too green and full of sap to be easily mastered; and she was
in a very bad temper. Good day, Great-Aunt,' I said, I am your
Great-Niece Viola.' I have no more use for great nieces,' she
snapped, than for little ones.' And she continued to tussle with
the broomstick and took no further notice of me. Then I went into
the Hovel, where a fire burned on the hearth, and I took out my
tools and fashioned a bit on the hob; and when it was ready I took
it to her and said, This will teach it its manners'; and she put
the bit on the broom, which became as docile as a lamb. Great-Niece,'
said she, it appears that I told you a lie this morning.
What can I do for you?' Tell me, if you please, how I am to live
now that my father is dead.' There is no need to tell you,' said
she; you have your living at your fingers' ends.' But women cannot
be smiths,' said I. Then become a lad,' said she, and ply your
trade where none knows you; and lest men should suspect you by your
face, which fools though they be they might easily do, let it be so
sooted from week's end to week's end that none can discover what you
look like; and if any one remarks on it, put it down to your trade.'
But Great-Aunt,' I said, I could not bear to go dirty from week's
end to week's end.' If you will be so particular,' she said, take
a bath every Saturday night and spend your Sundays with me, as fair
as when you were a babe. And before you go to work again on Monday
you shall once more conceal your fairness past all men's
penetration.' But, dear Great-Aunt,' I pleaded, it may be that the
day will come when I might not wish--'"
And here, dear maidens, Viola faltered. And William put his arm
about her a little tighter--because it was there already--and said,
"What might you not wish, beloved?" And she murmured, "To be
concealed past one man's penetration. And my Great-Aunt said I need
not worry. Because though men, she said, were fools, there was one
time in every man's life when he was quick enough to penetrate all
obscurities, whether it were a layer of soot or a night without a
moon." And she hid her face on the King's shoulder, and he tried to
kiss her but could not make her look up until he said, "Or even a
woman's waywardness?" Then she looked up of her own accord and
"In this way," she resumed, "it became my custom on each Saturday,
after closing the forge, to come here with my woman's raiment, and
wait in a hollow until night had fallen, and make myself clean of
the week's blackness. For I dared not do this by daylight, or be
seen going forth from my forge in my proper person."
"But why did you choose to bathe at midnight?" asked the King.
She was silent for a few moments, and then said hurriedly, "I did
not choose to bathe at midnight until a month ago.--For the rest,"
she resumed, "I was hard to please in the matter of the shoes
because I knew that when they were finished you would ride away. And
therefore the more you improved the crosser I became. And if I have
tormented you for a month it was because you tormented me by
refusing to speak when you saw me here, in spite of your hateful
vow; and you would not even look at my cake in the larder."
"Women are strange," said the King. "How do you know I did not look
at the cake?"
"I do know," she said as hurriedly as before. "And if I would not
tell you who I was, it was because I could not bear, on the other
hand, to extort from you a love you seemed so reluctant to endure;
until indeed it became of its own accord too strong even for the
purpose which brought you every week to the Ring. For I knew that
purpose, since all dwellers in Washington know why men go up the
hill with the new moon."
"But when my love did become too strong for my vow, and opened my
lips at last," said the King, "why did you run away?"
Viola said, "Had you not run away the week before? And now I have
answered all your questions."
"No," said the King, "not all. You haven't told me yet when you
first loved me."
Viola smiled and said, "I first stole barley sugar when my father
said This is for the other little girl over the way'; and I first
loved you when, seeing you had been too absent-minded to know that
Pepper had cast her shoes, I feared you were in love."
"But that was three minutes after we met!" cried the King.
"Was it as much as that!" said she.
Now after awhile Viola said, "Let us get down to the world again. We
cannot stay here for ever."
"Why not?" said the King. However, they walked to the brow of the
hill, and stood together gazing awhile over the sunlit earth that
had never been so beautiful to either of them; for their sight was
newly-washed with love, and all things were changed.
"Now I know how she looks from heaven," said the King, "and that is
like heaven itself. Let us go; for I think she will still look so at
our coming, seeing that we carry heaven with us."
So they went downhill to the forge, and there Viola said to her
lover, "I can stay no longer in this place where all men have known
me as a lad; and besides, a woman's home is where her husband
"But I live only in a Barn," said William the King.
"Then I will live there with you," said Viola, "and from this very
night. But first I will shoe Pepper anew, for she is so unequally
shod that she might spill us on the road. And that she may be shod
worthily of herself and of us, give me what you have tied up in your
blue handkerchief." The King fetched his handkerchief and unknotted
it, and gave her his crown and scepter; and she set him at the
bellows and made three golden shoes and shod the nag on her two
fore-feet and her off hind-foot. But when she looked at the near
hind-foot, which the King had shod last of all, she said: "I could
not make a better. And therefore, like his father, the Lad must shut
his smithy, for he is dead." Then she put the three shoes she had
removed into a bag with some other trifles; and while she did so the
King took what remained of the gold and made it into two rings. This
done, they got on to Pepper's back, and with her three shoes of gold
and one of iron she bore them the way the King had come. When they
passed the Bush Hovel they saw the Wise Woman currying her
broomstick, and Viola cried:
"Great-Aunt, give us a blessing."
"Great-Niece," said the Wise Woman, "how can I give you what you
already have? But I will give you this." And she held out a
"Good gracious," said the King, "this was once Pepper's."
"It was," said the Wise Woman. "In her merriment at hearing you ask
a silly question, she cast it outside my door."
A little further on they came to the Guess Gate, but when the King,
dismounting, swung it open, it grated on something in the road. He
stooped and lifted--a horseshoe.
"Wonder of wonders!" exclaimed the King. "This also was Pepper's.
What shall we do with it?"
"Hang--it--up--hang--it--up--hang--" creaked the Gate; and clicked
In due course they reached the Doves, and at the sound of Pepper's
hoofs the Brothers flocked out to meet them.
"Is all well?" cried the Ringdove, seeing the King only. "And have
you returned to us for the final blessing?"
"I have," replied the King, "for I bring my bride behind me, and now
you must make us one."
The gentle Brothers, rejoicing at the sight of their happiness and
their beauty, led them in; and there they were wedded. The Doves
offered them to eat, but the King was impatient to reach his Barn by
nightfall; so they got again on Pepper's back, and as they were
about to leave the Ringdove said:
"I have something of yours which is in itself a thing of no moment;
yet, because it is of good augury, take it with you."
And he gave the King Pepper's third shoe.
"Thank you," said the King, "I will hang it over my Barn door."
Now he urged Pepper to her full speed, and they went at a gallop
past the Hawking Sopers, who, hearing the clatter, came running into
"Stay, gallopers, stay!" they cried, "and make merry with us."
"We cannot," called the King, "for we are newly married."
"Good luck to you then!" shouted the Sopers, and with huzzas and
laughter flung something after them. Viola stretched out her hand
and caught it in mid-air, and it was a horseshoe.
"The tale is complete," she laughed, "and now you know where Pepper
picked up her stones."
Soon after the King said, "Here is my Barn." And he sprang down and
lifted his bride from the nag's back and brought her in.
"It is a poor place," he said gently, "but it is all I have. What
can I do for you in such a home?"
"I will tell you," said Viola, and putting her hand into her left
pocket, she drew out the ruby winking with the wine of mirth. "You
can dance in it." And suddenly they caught each other by the hands
and went capering and laughing round the Barn like children.
"Hurrah!" cried William, "now I know what a King should do in a
"But he should do more than dance in it," said Viola; and putting
her hand into her right pocket she gave him the pearl, as pure as a
prayer; "beloved, he should pray in it too."
And William looked at her and knelt, and she knelt by him, and in
silence they prayed the same prayer, side by side.
Then William rose and said simply, "Now I know."
But she knelt still, and took from her girdle the diamond, as bright
as power, and she put it in his hand, saying very low, "Oh, my dear
King! but he should also rule in it." And she kissed his hand. But
the King lifted her very quickly so that she stood equal with his
heart, and embracing her he said, with tears in his eyes:
"And you, beloved! what will a Queen do in a Barn?"
"The same as a King," she whispered, and drew from her bosom the
opal, as lovely and as variable as the human spirit. "With the other
three stones you may, if you will, buy back your father's kingdom.
But this, which contains all qualities in one, let us keep for ever,
for our children and theirs, that they may know there is nothing a
King and a Queen may not do in a Barn, or a man and a woman
anywhere. But the best thing they can do is to work in it."
Then, going out, she came back with the bag which she had slung on
Pepper's back, and took from it her father's tools.
"In three weeks you learned all I learned in three years," said she.
"When I shod Pepper this morning I did my last job as a smith; for
now I shall have other work to do. But you, whether you choose to
get your father's lands again or no, I pray to work in the trade I
have given you, for I have made you the very king of smiths, and all
men should do the thing they can do best. So take the hammer and
nail up the horseshoes over the door while I get supper; for you
look as hungry as I feel."
"But there's nothing to eat," said the King ruefully.
However, he went outside, and over the door he hung as many shoes as
there are nails in one--the four Pepper had cast on the road, and
the three he had first made for her. As he drove the last nail home
"Supper is ready."
And the King went into the Barn and saw a Wedding Cake.
And now, if you please, Mistress Joan, I have earned my apple.
Now there was a great munching of apples in the tree, for to tell
the truth during the latter part of the story this business had been
suspended, and between bites the milkmaids discussed the merits of
what they had just heard.
Jessica: What is your opinion of this tale, Jane?
Jane: It surprised me more than anything. For who could have
suspected that the Lad was a Woman?
Martin: Lads are to be suspected of any mischief, Mistress Jane.
Joscelyn: It is not to be supposed, Master Pippin, that we are
acquainted with the habits of lads.
Martin: I suppose nothing. But did the story please you?
Joscelyn: As a story it was well enough to pass an hour. I would be
willing to learn whether the King regained his kingdom or no.
Martin: I think he did, since you may go to this day to the little
city on the banks of the Adur which is re-named after his Barn. But
I doubt whether he lived there, or anywhere but in the Barn where he
and his beloved began their life of work and prayer and mirth and
loving-rule. And died as happily as they had lived.
Joan: I am glad they lived happily. I was afraid the tale would end
Joyce: And so was I. For when the King roamed the hills for a whole
week without success, I began to fear he would never find the Woman
Jennifer: I for my part feared lest he should not open his lips
during the fourth vigil, and so must become a Dove for the remainder
of his days.
Jane: It was but by the grace of a moment he did not drown himself
in the Pond.
Jessica: Or what if, by some unlucky chance, he had never come to
the forge at all?
Martin: In any of these events, I grant you, the tale must have
ended in disaster. And this is the special wonder of love-tales:
that though they may end unhappily in a thousand ways, and happily
in only one, yet that one will vanquish the thousand as often as the
desires of lovers run in tandem. But there is one accident you have
left out of count, and it is the worst stumbling-block I know of in
the path of happy endings.
All the Milkmaids: What is it?
Martin: Suppose the lovely Viola had been a sworn virgin and a hater
There was silence in the Apple-Orchard.
Joscelyn: She would have been none the worse for that, singer. And
the tale would have been none the less a tale, which is all we look
for from you. This talk of happy endings is silly talk. The King
might have sought the Woman in vain, or kept his vow, or drowned
himself, or ridden to the confines of Kent, for aught I care.
Joyce: Or I.
Jennifer: Or I.
Jessica: Or I.
Jane: Or I.
Martin: I am silenced. Tales are but tales, and not worth
speculation. And see, the moon is gone to sleep behind a cloud,
which shows us nothing save the rainbow of her dreams. It is time we
did as she does.
Like shooting-stars in August the milkmaids slid from their leafy
heaven and dropped to the grass. And here they pillowed their heads
on their soft arms and soon were breathing the breath of sleep. But
little Joan sat on in the swing.
Now all this while she had kept between her hands the promised
apple, turning and turning it like one in doubt; and presently
Martin looked aside at her with a smile, and held his open palm to
receive his reward. And first she glanced at him, and then at the
sleepers, and last she tossed the apple lightly in the air. But by
some mishap she tossed it too high, and it made an arc clean over
the tree and fell in a distant corner by the hedge. So she ran
quickly to recover it for him, and he ran likewise, and they stooped
and rose together, she with the apple in her hands, he with his
hands on hers. At which she blushed a little, but held fast to the
"What!" said Martin Pippin, "am I never to have my apple?"
She answered softly, "Only when I am satisfied, as you promised."
"And are you not? What have I left undone?"
Joan: Please, Master Pippin. What did the young King look like?
Martin: Fool that I am to leave these vital things untold! I shall
avoid this error in future. He was more than middle tall, and broad
in the shoulders; and he had gray-blue eyes, and a fresh color, and
a kind and merry look, and dark brown hair that was not always as
sleek as he wished it to be.
Martin: With this further oddity, that above the nape of his neck
was a whitish tuft which, though he took great pains to conceal it,
continually obtruded through the darker hair like the cottontail on
the back of a rabbit.
Joan: Oh! Oh!
And she became as red as a cherry.
Martin: May I have my apple?
Joan: But had not he a--mustache?
Martin: He fondly believed so.
Joan (with unexpected fire): It was a big and beautiful mustache!
Martin (fervently): There was never a King of twenty years with one
so big and beautiful.
She gave him the apple.
Martin: Thank you. Will you, because I have answered many questions,
now answer one?
Martin: Then tell me this--what is your quarrel with men?
Joan: Oh, Master Pippin! they say that one and one make two.
Martin: Is this possible? Good heavens, are men such numskulls! When
they have but to go to the littlest woman on earth to learn--what
you and I well know--that one and one make one, and sometimes three,
or four, or even half-a-dozen; but never two. Fie upon these men!
Joan: I am glad you think I am in the right. But how obstinate they
Martin: As obstinate as children, and should be birched as roundly.
Joan: Oh! but-- You would not birch children.
Martin: You are right again. They should be coaxed.
Joan: Yes. No. I mean-- Good night, dear singer.
Martin: Good night, dear milkmaid. Sleep sweetly among your comrades
who are wiser than we, being so indifferent to happy endings that
they would never unpadlock sorrow, though they had the key in their
Then he took her hands in one of his, and put his other hand very
gently under her chin, and lifted it till he could look into her
face, and he said: "Give me the key to Gillian's prison, little
Joan, because you love happy endings."
Joan: Dear Martin, I cannot give you the key.
Martin: Why not?
Joan: Because I stuck it inside your apple.
So he kissed her and they parted, and lay down and slept; she among
her comrades under the apple-tree, and he under the briony in the
hedge; and the moon came out of her dream and watched theirs.
With morning came a hoarse voice calling along the hedge:
"Maids! maids! maids!"
Up sprang the milkmaids, rubbing their eyes and stretching their
arms; and up sprang Martin likewise. And seeing him, Joscelyn was
stricken with dismay.
"It is Old Gillman, our master," she whispered, "come with bread and
questions. Quick, singer, quick! into the hollow russet before he
reaches the hole in the hedge."
Swiftly the milkmaids hustled Martin into the russet tree, and
concealed him at the very moment when the Farmer was come to the
peephole, filling it with his round red face and broad gray fringe
of whiskers, like the winter sun on a sky that is going to snow.
"Good morrow, maids," quoth old Gillman.
"Good morrow, master," said they.
"Is my daughter come to her mind yet?"
"No, master," said little Joan, "but I begin to have hopes that she
"If she do not," groaned Gillman, "I know not what will happen to
the farmstead. For it is six months now since I tasted water, and
how can a man follow his business who is fuddled day and night with
Barley Wine? Life is full of hardships, of which daughters are the
greatest. Gillian!" he cried, "when will ye come into your senses
and out of the Well-House?"
But Gillian took no more heed of him than of the quacking of the
drake on the duckpond.
"Well, here is your bread," said Gillman, and he thrust a basket
with seven loaves in it through the gap. "And may to-morrow bring
"One moment, dear master," entreated little Joan. "Tell me, please,
how Nancy my Jersey fares."
"Pines for you, pines for you, maid, though Charles does his best by
her. But it is as though she had taken a vow to let down no milk
till you come again. Rack and ruin, rack and ruin!"
And the old man retreated as he had come, muttering "Rack and ruin!"
the length of the hedge.
The maids then set about preparing breakfast, which was simplicity
itself, being bread and apples than which no breakfast could be
sweeter. There was a loaf for each maid and one over for Gillian,
which they set upon the wall of the Well-House, taking away
yesterday's loaf untouched and stale.
"Does she never eat?" asked Martin.
"She has scarcely broken bread in six months," said Joscelyn, "and
what she lives on besides her thoughts we do not know."
"Thoughts are a fast or a feast according to their nature," said
Martin, "so let us feed the ducks, who have none."
They broke the stale bread into fragments, and when the ducks had
made a meal, returned to their own; and of two loaves made seven
parts, that Martin might have his share, and to this they added
apples according to their fancies, red or russet, green or golden.
After breakfast, at Martin's suggestion, they made little boats of
twigs and leaves and sailed them on the duckpond, where they met
with many adventures and calamities from driftweed, small breezes,
and the curiosity of the ducks. And before they were aware of it the
dinner hour was upon them, when they divided two more loaves as
before and ate apples at will.
Then Martin, taking a handkerchief from his pocket, proposed a game
of Blindman's-Buff, and the girls, delighted, counter Eener-Meener-
Meiner-Mo to find the Blindman. And Joyce was He. So Martin tied the
handkerchief over her eyes.
"Can you see?" asked Martin.
"Of course I can't see!" said Joyce.
"Promise?" said Martin.
"I hope, Master Pippin," said Jane reprovingly, "that you can take a
girl's word for it."
"I'm sure I hope I can," said Martin, and turned Joyce round three
times, and ran for his life. And Joyce caught Jane on the spot and
guessed her immediately.
Then Jane was blindfolded, and she was so particular about not
seeing that it was quite ten minutes before she caught Jennifer, but
she knew who she was by the feel of her gown; and Jennifer caught
Joscelyn, and guessed her by her girdle; and Joscelyn caught Jessica
and guessed her by the darn in her sleeve; and Jessica caught Joan,
and guessed her by her ribbon; and Joan caught Martin, and guessed
him by his difference.
So then Martin was Blindman, and it seemed as though he would never
have eyes again; for though he caught all the girls, one after
another, he couldn't guess which was which, and gave Jane's nose to
Jessica, and Jessica's hands to Joscelyn, and Joscelyn's chin to
Joyce, and Joyce's hair to Jennifer, and Jennifer's eyebrows to
Joan; but when he caught Joan he guessed her at once by her
In due course the change of light told them it was supper-time; and
with great surprise they ate the last two loaves to the sweet
accompaniment of the apples.
"I would never have supposed," said Joscelyn, as they gathered under
the central tree at the close of the meal, "that a day could pass so
"Bait time with a diversion," said Martin, "and he will run like a
donkey after a dangled carrot."
"It has nearly been the happiest day of my life," said Joyce with a
sly glance at Martin.
"And why not quite?" said he.
"Because it lacked a story, singer," she said demurely.
"What can be rectified," said Martin, "must be; and the day is not
yet departed, but still lingers like a listener on the threshold of
night. So set the swing in motion, dear Mistress Joyce, and to its
measure I will endeavor to swing my thoughts, which have till now
With these words he set Joyce in the swing and himself upon the
branch beside it as before. And the other milkmaids climbed into
their perches, rustling the fruit down from the shaken boughs; and
he made of Joyce's lap a basket for the harvest. And he and each of
the maids chose an apple as though supper had not been.
"We are listening," said Joscelyn from above.
"Not all of you," said Martin. And he looked up at Joscelyn alert on
her branch, and down at Gillian prone on the steps.
"You are here for no other purpose," said Joscelyn, "than to make
them listen that will not. I would not have you think we desire to
"I think nothing but that you are the prey of circumstances," said
Martin, "constrained like flowers to bear witness to that which is
against all nature."
"What do you mean by that?" said Joscelyn. "Flowers are nature
"So men have agreed," replied Martin, "yet who but men have
compelled them repeatedly to assert such unnaturalnesses as that
foxes wear gloves and cuckoos shoes? Out on the pretty fibbers!"
"Please do not be angry with the flowers," said Joan.
"How could I be?" said Martin. "The flowers must always be forgiven,
because their inconsistencies lie always at men's doors. Besides,
who does not love fairy-tales?"
Then Martin kicked his heels against the tree and sang idly:
When cuckoos fly in shoes
And foxes run in gloves,
Then butterflies won't go in twos
And boys will leave their loves.
"A silly song," said Joscelyn.
Martin: If you say so. For my part I can never tell the difference
between silliness and sense.
Jane: Then how can a good song be told from a bad? You must go by
Martin: I go by the sound. But since Mistress Joscelyn pronounces my
song silly, I can only suppose she has seen cuckoos flying in shoes.
Joscelyn: You are always supposing nonsense. Who ever heard of
cuckoos flying in shoes?
Jane: Or of foxes running in gloves?
Joan: Or of butterflies going in ones?
Martin: Or of boys--
Joscelyn: I have frequently seen butterflies going in ones, foolish
Joan. And the argument was not against butterflies, but cuckoos.
Martin: And their shoes. Please, dear Mistress Joan, do not look so
downcast, nor you, dear Mistress Joscelyn, so vexed. Let us see if
we cannot turn a more sensible song upon this theme.
And he sang--
Cuckoo Shoes aren't cuckoos' shoes,
They're shoes which cuckoos never don;
And cuckoo nests aren't cuckoos' nests,
But other birds' for a moment gone;
And nothing that the cuckoo has
But he does make a mock upon.
For even when the cuckoo sings
He only says what isn't true--
When happy lovers first swore oaths
An artful cuckoo called and flew,
Yes! and when lovers weep like dew
The teasing cuckoo laughs Cuckoo!
What need for tears? Cuckoo, cuckoo!
As Martin ended, Gillian raised herself upon an elbow, and looked no
more into the green grass, but across the green duckpond.
"The second song seems to me as irrelevant as the first," said
Joscelyn, "but I observe that you cuckooed so loudly as to startle
our mistress out of her inattention. So if you mean to tell us
another story, by all means tell it now. Not that I care, except for
"It is my only object to ease it," said Martin, "so bear with me as
well as you may during the recital of Young Gerard."
There was once, dear maidens, a shepherd who kept his master's sheep
on Amberley Mount. His name was Gerard, and he was always called
Young Gerard to distinguish him from the other shepherd who was
known as Old Gerard, yet was not, as you might suppose, his father.
Their master was the Lord of Combe Ivy that lay in the southern
valleys of the hills toward the sea; he owned the grazing on the
whole circle of the Downs between the two great roads--on Amberley
and Perry and Wepham and Blackpatch and Cockhill and Highdown and
Barnsfarm and Sullington and Chantry. But the two Gerards lived
together in the great shed behind the copse between Rackham Hill and
Kithurst, and the way they came to do so was this.
One night in April when Old Gerard's gray beard was still brown, the
door of the shed was pushed open, letting in not only the winds of
Spring but a woman wrapped in a green cloak, with a lining of
cherry-color and a border of silver flowers and golden cherries. In
one hand she swung a crystal lantern set in a silver frame, but it
had no light in it; and in the other she held a small slip of a
cherry-tree, but it had no bloom on it. Her dress was white, or had
been; for the skirts of it, and her mantle, were draggled and
sodden, and her green shoes stained and torn, and her long fair hair
lay limp and dank upon her mantle whose hood had fallen away, and
the shadows round her blue eyes were as black as pools under
hedgerows thawing after a frost, and her lovely face was as white as
the snowbanks they bed in. Behind her came another woman in a duffle
cloak, a crone with eyes as black as sloes, and a skin as brown as
beechnuts, and unkempt hair like the fireless smoke of Old Man's
Beard straying where it will on the November woodsides. She too was
wet and soiled, but full of life where the young one seemed full of
The Shepherd looked at this strange pair and said surlily, "What
"Shelter," replied the crone.
She pushed the lady, who never spoke, into the shed, and took from
her shoulders the wet mantle, and from her hands the lantern and the
tree; and led her to the Shepherd's bed and laid her down. Then she
spread the mantle over the Shepherd's bench and,
"Lie there," said she, "till love warms ye."
Next she hung the lantern up on a nail in the wall, and,
"Swing there," said she, "till love lights ye."
Last she took the Shepherd's trowel and went outside the shed, and
set the cherry-slip beside the door. And she said:
"Grow there, till love blossoms ye."
After this she came inside and sat down at the bedhead.
Gerard the Shepherd, who had watched her proceedings without word or
gesture, said to himself, "They've come through the floods."
He looked across at the women and raised his voice to ask, "Did ye
come through the floods?"
The lady moaned a little, and the crone said, "Let her be and go to
sleep. What does it matter where we came from by night? By daybreak
we shall both of us be gone no matter whither."
The Shepherd said no more, for though he was both curious and
ill-tempered he had not the courage to disturb the lady, knowing by the
richness of her attire that she was of the quality; and the iron of
serfdom was driven deep into his soul. So he went to sleep on his
stool, as he had been bidden. But in the middle of the night he was
awakened by a gusty wind and the banging of his door; and he started
up rubbing his knuckles in his eyes, saying, "I've been dreaming of
strange women, but was it a dream or no?" He peered about the shed,
and the crone had vanished utterly, but the lady still lay on his
bed. And when he went over to look at her, she was dead. But beside
her lay a newborn child that opened its eyes and wailed at him.
Then the Shepherd ran to his open door and stared into the blowing
night, but there were no more signs of the crone without than there
were within. So he fastened the latch and came back to the bedside,
and examined the child.--
(But at this point Martin Pippin interrupted himself, and seizing
the rope of the swing set it rocking violently.
Joyce: I shall fall! I shall fall!
Martin: Then you will be no worse off than I, who have fallen
already. For I see you do not like my story.
Joyce: What makes you say so?
Martin: Till now you listened with all your ears, but a moment ago
you turned away your head a moment too late to hide the
disappointment in your eyes.
Joyce: It is true I am disappointed. Because the beautiful lady is
dead, and how can a love-story be, if half the lovers are dead?
Martin: Dear Mistress Joyce, what has love to do with death? Love
and death are strangers and speak in different tongues. Women may
die and men may die, but lovers are ignorant of mortality.
Joyce (pouting): That may be, singer. But lovers are also a man and
a woman, and the woman is dead, and the love-tale ended before we
have even heard it. You should not have let the woman die. What sort
of love-tale is this, now the woman is dead?
Martin: Are not more nests than one built in a spring-time?--Give
me, I pray you, two hairs of your head.
She plucked two and gave them to him, turning her pouting to
laughing. One of them Martin coiled and held before his lips, and
blew on it.
"There it flies," said he, and gave her back the second hair. "Hold
fast by this and keep it from its fellow with all your might, for to
part true mates baffles the forces of the universe. And when you
give me this second hair again I swear I will send it where it will
find its fellow. But I will never ask for it until, my story ended,
you say to me, I am content.'")
Examining the child (repeated Martin) the Shepherd discovered it to
be a lusty boy-child, and this rejoiced him, so that while the baby
wept he laughed aloud.
"It is better to weep for something than for nothing," said he, "and
to laugh for something likewise. Tears are for serfs and laughter is
for freedmen." For he had conceived the plan of selling the child to
his master, the Lord of Combe Ivy, and buying his freedom with the
purchase money. So in the morning he carried the body of the lady
into the heart of the copse, and there he dug a grave and laid her
in it in her white gown. And afterwards he went up hill and down
dale to his master, and said he had a man for sale. The Lord of
Combe Ivy, who was a jovial lord and a bachelor, laughed at the tale
he had to tell; but being always of the humor for a jest he paid the
Shepherd a gold piece for the child, and promised him another each
midnight on the anniversary of its birth; but on the twenty-first
anniversary, he said, the Shepherd was to bring back the twenty-one
gold pieces he had received, and instead of adding another to them
he would take them again, and make the serf a freedman, and the
child his serf.
"For," said the Lord of Combe Ivy, "an infant is a poor deal for a
man in his prime, as you are, but a youth come to manhood is a good
exchange for a graybeard, as you will be. Therefore rear this babe
as you please, and if he live to manhood so much the better for you,
but if he die first it's all one to me."
The Shepherd had hoped for a better bargain, but he must needs be
content with seeing liberty at a distance. So he returned to his
shed on the hills and made a leather purse to keep his gold-piece
in, and hung it round his neck, touching it fifty times a day under
his shirt to be sure it was still there. And presently he sought
among his ewes one who had borne her young, saying, "You shall
mother two instead of one." And the baby sucked the ewe like her
very lamb, and thrived upon the milk. And the shepherd called the
child Gerard after himself, "since," he said, "it is as good a name
for a shepherd as another"; and from that time they became the Young
and Old Gerards to all who knew them.
So the Young Gerard grew up, and as he grew the cherry-tree grew
likewise, but in the strangest fashion; for though it flourished
past all expectation, it never put forth either leaf or blossom.
This bitterly vexed Old Gerard, who had hoped in time for fruit, and
the frustration of his hopes became to him a cause of grievance
against the boy. A further grudge was that by no manner of means
could he succeed in lighting any wick or candle in the silver
lantern, of which he desired to make use.
"But if your tree and your lantern won't work," said he, "it's no
reason why you shouldn't." So he put Young Gerard to work, first as
sheepboy to his own flock, but later the boy had a flock of his own.
There was no love lost between these two, and kicks and curses were
the young one's fare; for he was often idle and often a truant, and
none was held responsible for him except the old shepherd who was
selling him piece-meal, year by year, to their master. Because of
what depended on him, Old Gerard was constrained to show him some
sort of care when he would liever have wrung his neck. The boy's
fits exasperated the man; whether he was cutting strange capers and
laughing without reason, as he frequently did, or sitting a whole
evening in a morose dream, staring at the fire or at the stars, and
saying never a word. The boy's coloring was as mingled as his moods,
a blend of light and dark--black hair, brown skin, blue eyes and
golden lashes, a very odd anomaly.
(Martin: What is it, Mistress Joyce?
Joyce: I said nothing, Master Pippin.
Martin: I thought I heard you sigh.
Joyce: I did not--you did not.
Martin: My imagination exceeds all bounds.)
Because of their mutual dislike, when the boy was put in charge of
his own sheep the two shepherds spent their days apart. The Old
Gerard grazed his flock to the east as far as Chantry, but the Young
Gerard grazed his flock to the west as far as Amberley, whose lovely
dome was dearer to him than all the other hills of Sussex. And here
he would sit all day watching the cloud-shadows stalk over the face
of the Downs, or slipping along the land below him, with the sun
running swiftly after, like a carpet of light unrolling itself upon
a dusky floor. And in the evening he watched the smoke going up from
the tiny cottages till it was almost dark, and a hundred tiny lights
were lit in a hundred tiny windows. Sometimes on his rare holidays,
and on other days too, he ran away to the Wildbrooks to watch the
herons, or to find in the water-meadows the tallest kingcups in the
whole world, and the myriad treasures of the river--the giant
comfrey, purple and white, meadowsweet, St. John's Wort, purple
loose-strife, willowherb, and the ninety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-
and-ninety-five others, or whatever number else you please, that go
to make a myriad. He came to know more about the ways of the
Wildbrooks than any other lad of those parts, and one day he
rediscovered the Lost Causeway that can be traveled even in the
floods, when the land lies under a lake at the foot of the hills. He
kept this, like many other things, a secret; but he had one more
For as he lay and watched the play of sun and shadow on the plains,
he fancied a world of strange places he had known, somewhere beyond
the veils of light and mist that hung between his vision and the
distance, and he fell into a frequent dream of tunes and laughter,
and sunlit boughs in blossom, and dancing under the boughs; or of
fires burning in the open night, and a wilder singing and dancing in
the starlight; and often when his body was lying on the round hill,
or by the smoky hearth, his thoughts were running with lithe boys as
strong and careless as he was, or playing with lovely free-limbed
girls with flowing hair. Sometimes these people were fair and
bright-haired and in light and lovely clothing, and at others they
were dark, with eyes of mischief, and clad in the gayest rags; and
sometimes they came to him in a mingled company, made one by their
One evening in April, on the twelfth anniversary, when Young Gerard
came to gather his flock, a lamb was missing; so to escape a
scolding he waited awhile on the hills till Old Gerard should be
gone about his business. What this was Young Gerard did not know, he
only knew that each year on this night the old shepherd left him to
his own devices, and returned in the small hours of the morning. Not
therefore until he judged that the master must have left the hut,
did the boy fold his sheep; and this done he ran out on the hills
again, seeking the lost lamb. For careless though he was he cared
for his sheep, as he did for all things that ran on legs or flew on
wings. So he went swinging his lantern under the stars, singing and
whistling and smelling the spring. Now and then he paused and
bleated like a ewe; and presently a small whimper answered his
"My lost lamb crying on the hills," said Young Gerard. He called
again, but at the sound of his voice the other stopped, and for a
moment he stood quite still, listening and perplexed.
"Where are you, my lamb?" said he.
"Here," said a little frightened voice behind a bush.
He laughed aloud and went forward, and soon discovered a tiny girl
cowering under a thorn. When she saw him she ran quickly and grasped
his sleeve and hid her face in it and wept. She was small for her
years, which were not more than eight.
Young Gerard, who was big for his, picked her up and looked at her
kindly and curiously.
"What is it, you little thing?" said he.
"I got lost," said the child shyly through her tears.
"Well, now you're found," said Young Gerard, "so don't cry any
"Yes, but I'm hungry," sobbed the child.
"Then come with me. Will you?"
"To a feast in a palace."
"Oh, yes!" she said.
Young Gerard set her on his shoulder, and went back the way he had
come, till the dark shape of his wretched shed stood big between
them and the sky.
"Is this your palace?" said the child.
"That's it," said Young Gerard.
"I didn't know palaces had cracks in the walls," said she.
"This one has," explained Young Gerard, "because it's so old." And
she was satisfied.
Then she asked, "What is that funny tree by the door?"
"It's a cherry-tree."
"My father's cherry-trees have flowers on them," said she.
"This one hasn't," said Young Gerard, "because it's not old enough."
"One day will it be?" she asked.
"One day," he said. And that contented her.
He then carried her into the shed, and she looked around eagerly to
see what a palace might be like inside; and it was full of
flickering lights and shadows and the scent of burning wood, and she
did not see how poor and dirty the room was; for the firelight
gleamed upon a mass of golden fruit and silver bloom embroidered on
the covering of the settle by the hearth, and sparkled against a
silver and crystal lantern hanging in the chimney. And between the
cracks on the walls Young Gerard had stuck wands of gold and silver
palm and branches of snowy blackthorn, and on the floor was a dish
full of celandine and daisies, and a broken jar of small wild
daffodils. And the child knew that all these things were the
treasures of queens and kings.
"Why don't you have that?" she asked, pointing to the crystal
lantern as Young Gerard set down his horn one.
"Because I can't light it," said he.
"Let ME light it!" she begged; so he fetched it from its nail, and
thrust a pine twig in the fire and gave her the sweet-smoking torch.
But in vain she tried to light the wick, which always spluttered and
went out again. So seeing her disappointment Young Gerard hung the
lantern up, saying, "Firelight is prettier." And he set her by the
fire and filled her lap with cones and dry leaves and dead bracken
to burn and make crackle and turn into fiery ferns. And she was
Then he looked about and found his own wooden cup, and went away and
came back with the cup full of milk, set on a platter heaped with
primroses, and when he brought it to her she looked at it with
shining eyes and asked:
"Is this the feast?"
"That's it," said Young Gerard.
And she drank it eagerly. And while she drank Young Gerard fetched a
pipe and began to whistle tunes on it as mad as any thrush, and the
child began to laugh, and jumped up, spilling her leaves and
primroses, and danced between the fitful lights and shadows as
though she were, now a shadow taken shape, and now a flame. Whenever
he paused she cried, "Oh, let me dance! Don't stop! Let me go on
dancing!" until at the same moment she dropped panting on the hearth
and he flung his pipe behind him and fell on his back with his heels
in the air, crying, "Pouf! d'you think I've the four quarters of
heaven in my lungs, or what?" But as though to prove he had yet a
capful of wind under his ribs, he suddenly began to sing a song
she'd never heard before, and it went like this:
I looked before me and behind,
I looked beyond the sun and wind,
Beyond the rainbow and the snow,
And saw a land I used to know.
The floods rolled up to keep me still
A captive on my heavenly hill,
And on their bright and dangerous glass
Was written, Boy, you shall not pass!
I laughed aloud, You shining seas,
I'll run away the day I please!
I am not winged like any plover
Yet I've a way shall take me over,
I am not finned like any bream
Yet I can cross you, lake and stream.
And I my hidden land shall find
That lies beyond the sun and wind--
Past drowned grass and drowning trees
I'll run away the day I please,
I'll run like one whom nothing harms
With my bonny in my arms.
"What does that mean?" asked the child.
"I'm sure I don't know," said Young Gerard. He kicked at the dying
log on the hearth, and sent a fountain of sparks up the chimney. The
child threw a dry leaf and saw it shrivel, and Young Gerard stirred
the white ash and blew up the embers, and held a fan of bracken to
them, till the fire ran up its veins like life in the veins of a
man, and the frond that had already lived and died became a gleaming
spirit, and then it too fell in ashes among the ash. Then Young
Gerard took a handful of twigs and branches, and began to build upon
the ash a castle of many sorts of wood, and the child helped him,
laying hazel on his beech and fir upon his oak; and often before
their turret was quite reared a spark would catch at the dry fringes
of the fir, or the brown oakleaves, and one twig or another would
vanish from the castle.
"How quickly wood burns," said the child.
"That's the lovely part of it," said Young Gerard, "the fire is
always changing and doing different things with it."
And they watched the fire together, and smelled its smoke, that had
as many smells as there were sorts of wood. Sometimes it was like
roast coffee, and sometimes like roast chestnuts, and sometimes like
incense. And they saw the lichen on old stumps crinkle into golden
ferns, or fire run up a dead tail of creeper in a red S, and vanish
in mid-air like an Indian boy climbing a rope, or crawl right
through the middle of a birch-twig, making hieroglyphics that glowed
and faded between the gray scales of the bark. And then suddenly it
caught the whole scaffolding of their castle, and blazed up through
the fir and oak and spiny thorns and dead leaves, and the bits of
old bark all over blue-gray-green rot, and the young sprigs almost
budding, and hissing with sap. And for one moment they saw all the
skeleton and soul of the castle without its body, before it fell in.
The child sighed a little and yawned a little and said:
"How nice it is to live in a palace. Who lives here with you?"
"My friends," said Young Gerard, poking at the log with a bit of
"What are your friends like?" she asked him, rubbing her knuckles in
He was silent for a little, stirring up sparks and smoke. Then he
answered, "They are gay in their hearts, and they're dressed in
bright clothes, and they come with singing and dancing."
"Who else lives in your palace with you?" she asked drowsily.
"You do," said Young Gerard.
The child's head dropped against his shoulder and she said, "My
name's Dorothea, but my father calls me Thea, and he is the Lord of
Combe Ivy." And she fell fast asleep.
For a little while Young Gerard held and watched her in the
firelight, and then he rose and wrapped her in the old embroidered
mantle on the settle, and went out. And sure-foot as a goat he
carried her over the dark hills by the tracks he knew, for roads
there were none, and his arms ached with his burden, but he would
not wake her till they stood at her father's gates. Then he shook
her gently and set her down, and she clung to him a little dazed,
trying to remember.
"This is Combe Ivy," he whispered. "You must go in alone. Will you
"One day," said Thea.
"One day there'll be flowers on my cherry-tree," said Young Gerard.
"No, I won't," she said.
He returned through the night up hill and down dale, but did not go
back to the shed until he had recovered his lamb. By then it was
almost dawn, and he found his master awake and cursing. He had
feared the boy had made off, and he had had curt treatment at Combe
Ivy, which was in a stir about the loss of the little daughter.
Young Gerard showed the lamb as his excuse, nevertheless the old
shepherd leathered the young one soundly, as he did six days in
After this when Young Gerard sat dreaming on the hills, he dreamed
not only of his happy land and laughing friends, but of the next
coming of little Thea. But Combe Ivy was far away, and the months
passed and the years, and she did not come again. Meanwhile Young
Gerard and his tree grew apace, and the limbs of the boy became
longer and stronger, and the branches of the tree spread up to the
roof and even began to thrust their way through the holes in the
wall; but the boy's life, save for his dreaming, was as friendless
as the tree's was flowerless. And of a tree's dreaming who shall
speak? Meanwhile Old Gerard thrashed and rated him, and reckoned his
gold pieces, and counted the years that still lay between him and
his freedom. At last came another April bringing its hour.
For as he sat on the Mount in the early morning, when he was in his
seventeenth year, Young Gerard saw a slender girl running over the
turf and laughing in the sunlight, sometimes stopping to watch a
bird flying, or stooping to pluck one of the tiny Down-flowers at
her feet. So she came with a dancing step to the top of the Mount,
and then she saw him, and her glee left her and shyness took its
place. But a little pride in her prevented her from turning away,
and she still came forward until she stood beside him, and said:
"Good morning, Shepherd. Is it true that in April the country north
of the hills is filled with lakes?"
"Yes, sometimes, Mistress Thea," said Young Gerard.
She looked at him with surprise and said, "You must be one of my
father's shepherds, but I do not remember seeing you at Combe Ivy."
"I was only once near Combe Ivy," said Young Gerard, "when I took
you there five years ago the night you were lost on these hills."
"Oh, I remember," she said with a faint smile. "How they did scold
me. Is your cherry-tree in flower yet, Shepherd?"
"No, mistress," said Young Gerard.
"I want to see it," she said suddenly.
Young Gerard left his flock to the dog, and walked with her along
"I have run away," she told him as they went. "I had to get up very
early while they were asleep. I shall be scolded again. But
travelers come who talk of the lakes, and I wanted to see them, and
to swim in them."
"I wouldn't do that," said Young Gerard, hiding a smile. "It's
dangerous to swim in the April floods. And it would be rather cold."
"What lies beyond?" she asked.
"I'm not able to know," said Young Gerard.
"Some day I mean to know, shepherd."
"Yes, mistress," he said, "you'll be free to."
She looked at him quickly and reddened a little, it might have been
from shame or pity, Young Gerard did not know which. And her shyness
once more enveloped her; it always came over her unexpectedly,
taking her breath away like a breaking wave. So she said no more,
and they walked together, she looking at the ground, he at the soft
brown hair blowing over the curve of her young cheek. She was fine
and delicate in every line, and in her color, and in the touch of
her too, Young Gerard knew. He wanted to touch her cheek with his
finger as he would have touched the petal of a flower. Her neck, the
back of it especially, was one of the loveliest bits of her, like a
primrose stalk. He fell a step behind so that he could look at it.
They did not speak as they went. He did not want to, and she did not
know what to say.
When they reached the shed she lingered a moment by the tree,
tracing a bare branch with her finger, and he waited, content, till
she should speak or act, to watch her. At last she said with her
faint smile, "I am very thirsty." Then he went into the shed and
came out with his wooden cup filled with milk. She drank and said,
"Thank you, shepherd. How pretty the violets are in your copse."
"Would you like some?" he asked.
"Not now," she said. "Perhaps another day. I must go now." She gave
him back his cup and went away, slowly at first, but when she was at
some distance he saw her begin to run like a fawn.
She did not come again that spring. And so the stark lives of the
boy and the tree went forward for another year. But one evening in
the following April, when the green was quivering on wood and
hedgerow, he came to the door of the shed and saw her bending like a
flower at the edge of the copse, filling her little basket and
singing to herself. She looked up soon and said:
"Good evening, shepherd. How does your cherry-tree?"
"As usual, Mistress Thea."
"So I see. What a lazy tree it is. Have you some milk for me?"
He brought her his cup and she drank of it for the third time, and
left him before he had had time to realize that she had come and
gone, but only how greatly her delicate beauty had increased in the
However, before the summer was over she came again--to swim in the
river, she told him, as she passed him on the hills, without
lingering. And in the autumn she came to gather blackberries, and he
showed her the best place to find them. Any of these things she
might have done as easily nearer Combe Ivy, but it seemed she must
always offer him some reason for her small truancies--whether to
gather berries or flowers, or to swim in the river. He knew that her
chief delight lay in escaping from her father's manor.
Winter closed her visits; but Young Gerard was as patient as the
earth, and did not begin to look for her till April. As surely as it
brought leaves to the trees and flowers to the grass, it would, he
knew, bring his little mistress's question, half shy, half smiling,
"Is your cherry-tree in blossom, shepherd?" And later her request,
smiling and shy, for milk.
They seldom exchanged more than a few words at any time. Sometimes
they did not speak at all. For he, who was her father's servant,
never spoke first; and she, growing in years and loveliness, grew
also in timidity, so that it seemed to cost her more and more to
address her greeting or her question even to her father's servant.
The sweet quick reddening of her cheek was one of Young Gerard's
chief remembrances of her.
But after a while, when they met by those sly chances which she
could control and he could not; and when she did not speak, but
glanced and hesitated and passed on; or glanced and passed without
hesitation; or passed without a glance; he came to know that she
would not mind if he arose and walked with her, if he could control
the pretext, which she could not. And he did so quietly, having
always something to show her.
He showed her his most secret nests and his greatest treasures of
flowers, his because he loved them so much. He would have been
jealous of showing these things to any one but her. In a great
water-meadow in the valley, he had once shown her kingcups making
sheets of gold, enameled with every green grass ever seen in spring--
thousands of kingcups and a myriad of milkmaids in between, dancing
attendance in all their faint shades of silver-white and rosy-mauve.
When a breeze blew, this world of milkmaids swayed and curtsied
above the kings' daughters in their glory. Then Gerard and Thea
looked at each other smiling, because the same delight was in each,
and soon she looked away again at the gentle maids and the royal
ladies, but he looked still at her, who was both to him.
In silence he showed her what he loved.
But you must not suppose that she came frequently to those hills.
She was to be seen no more often than you will see a kingfisher when
you watch for it under a willow. Yet because in the season of
kingfishers you know you may see one flash at any instant, so to
Young Gerard each day of spring and summer was an expectancy; and
this it was that kept his lift alight. This and his young troop of
friends in a land of fruit in blossom and a sky in stars. For men,
dear maids, live by the daily bread of their dreams; on realizations
they would starve.
At last came the winter that preceded Young Gerard's twenty-first
year. With the stripping of the boughs he stripped his heart of all
thoughts of seeing her again till the green of the coming year. The
snows came, and he tended his sheep and counted his memories; and
Old Gerard tended his sheep and counted his coins. The count was
full now, and he dreamed of April and the freeing of his body. Young
Gerard also dreamed of April, and the freeing of his heart. And
under the ice that bound the flooded meadows doubtless the earth
dreamed of the freeing of her waters and the blooming of the land.
The snows and the frosts lasted late that year as though the winter
would never be done, and to the two Gerards the days crawled like
snails; but in time March blew himself off the face of the earth,
and April dawned, and the swollen river went rushing to the sea
above the banks it had drowned with its wild overflow. And as Old
Gerard began to mark the days off on a tally, Young Gerard began to
listen on the hills. When the day came whose midnight was to make
the old man a freedman, Thea had not appeared.
On the morning of this day, as the two shepherds stood outside their
shed before they separated with their flocks, their ears were
accosted with shoutings and halloos on the other side of the copse,
and soon they saw coming through the trees a man in gay attire. He
had a scalloped jerkin of orange leather, and his shoes and cap were
of the same, but his sleeves and hose and feather were of a vivid
green, like nothing in nature. He looked garish in the sun. Seeing
the shepherds he took off his cap, and solemnly thanked heaven for
having after all created something besides hills and valleys. "For,"
said he, "after being lost among them I know not how many hours,
with no other company than my own shadow, I had begun to doubt
whether I was not the only man on earth, and my name Adam. A curse
of all lords who do not live by highroads!"
"Where are you bound for, master?" asked Old Gerard.
"Combe Ivy," said the stranger, "and the wedding."
Old Gerard nodded, as one little surprised; but to Young Gerard this
mention of a wedding at Combe Ivy came as news. It did not stir him
much, however, for he was not curious about the doings of the master
and the house he never saw; all that concerned him was that to-day,
at least, he must cease to listen on the hills, since his young
mistress would be at the wedding with the others.
Old Gerard said to the stranger, "Keep the straight track to the
south till you come under Wepham, then follow the valley to the
east, and so you'll be in time for the feasting, master."
"That's certain," said the stranger, "for the Lord of Combe Ivy and
the Rough Master of Coates have had no peers at junketing since Gay
Street lost its Lord; and the feast is like to go on till midnight."
With that he went on his way, and Old Gerard followed him with his
"Would I also were there! But for you," he said, turning on the
young man with a sudden snarl, "I should be! Had ye not come a day
too late, I'd be a freedman to-night instead of to-morrow, and
junketing at the wedding with the rest."
Young Gerard did not understand him. He was not in the habit of
questioning the old man, and if he had would not have expected
answers. But certain words of the stranger had pricked his
attention, and now he said:
"Where is Gay Street?"
"Far away over the Stor and the Chill," growled Old Gerard.
"It's a jolly name."
"Maybe. But they say it's a sorry place now that it lacks its Lord."
"What became of him?"
"How should I know? What can a man know who lives all his life on a
hill with pewits for gossips?"
"You know more than I," said Young Gerard indolently. "You know
there's a wedding down yonder. Who's the Rough Master of Coates?"
"The bridegroom, young know-nothing. You've a tongue in your head
"Why do they call him the Rough Master?"
"Because that's what he is, and so are his people, as rough as furze
on a common, they say. Have you any more questions?"
"Yes," said Young Gerard. "Who is the bride?"
"Who should the bride be? Combe Ivy's mother?"
"She's dead," said Young Gerard.
"His daughter then," scoffed Old Gerard.
Young Gerard stared at him.
"Get about your business," shouted the old shepherd with sudden
wrath. "Why do ye stare so? You're not drunk. Ah! down yonder
they'll be getting drunk without me. Enough of your idling and
He raised his staff, but Young Gerard thrust it aside so violently
that he staggered, and the boy went away to his sheep and they met
no more till evening. The whole of that day Young Gerard sat on the
Mount, not looking as usual to the busy north dreaming of the
unknown land beyond the water, but over the silent slopes and
valleys of the south, whose peoples were only birds and foxes and
rabbits, and whose only cities were built of lights and shadows.
Somewhere beyond them was Combe Ivy, and little Thea getting married
to the Rough Master of Coates, in the midst of feasting and singing
and dancing. He thought of her dancing over the Downs for joy of
being free, he thought of her singing to herself as she gathered
flowers in his copse, and he thought of her feasting on wild berries
he had helped her to find--that also was a feasting and singing and
dancing. All day long his thoughts ran, "She will not come any more
in the mornings to bathe in the river over the hill. She will not
come with her little basket to gather flowers and berries. She will
not stop and ask for a cup of milk, or say, Let me see the young
lambs, or say, Is your cherry-tree in flower yet, shepherd? She will
not ask me with her eyes to come with her--oh, she will not ask me
by turning her eyes away, with her little head bent. You! you Rough
Master of Coates, what are you like, what are you like?"
In the evening when he gathered his sheep, one was missing. He had
to take the flock back without it. Old Gerard was furious with him;
it seemed as though on this last night that separated him from the
long fulfillment of his hopes he must be more furious than he had
ever been before. He was furious at being thwarted of the fun in the
valley, furious at the loss of the lamb, most furious at young
Gerard's indifference to his fury. He told the boy he must search on
the hills, and Young Gerard only sat down by the side of the shed
and looked to the south and made no answer. So he went himself,
leaving the boy to prepare the mess for supper; for he feared that
if he went to Combe Ivy that night with a bad tale to tell, his
master for a whim might say that a young sheep was a fair deal for
an old shepherd, and take his gold, and keep him a bondman still.
For the Lord of Combe Ivy lived by his whimsies. But Old Gerard
could not find the lost sheep, and when he came back the boy was
where he had left him, looking over the darkening hills.
"Is the mess ready?" said Old Gerard.
"No," said Young Gerard.
"Because I forgot."
Old Gerard slashed at him with a rope he had taken in case of need.
"That will make you remember."
"No," said Young Gerard.
Young Gerard said, "You beat me too often, I cannot remember all the
"Then," said Old Gerard full of wrath, "I will beat you out of all
And he began to thrash Young Gerard will all his might, talking
between the blows. "Haven't you been the curse of my life for
twenty-one years?" snarled he. "Can I trust you? Can I leave you?
Would the sheep get their straw? Would the lambs be brought alive
into the world? Bah! for all you care the sheep would go cold and
their young would die. And down yonder they are getting drunk
"Old shepherd," said a voice behind him.
The angry man, panting with his rage and the exertion of his blows,
paused and turned. Near the corner of the shed he saw a woman in a
duffle cloak standing, or rather stooping, on her crutch. She was so
ancient that it seemed as though Death himself must have forgotten
her, but her eyes in their wrinkled sockets were as piercing as
thorns. Old Gerard, staring at them, felt as though his own eyes
"Where have I seen you before, hag?" he said.
"Have you ever seen me before?" asked the old woman.
"I thought so, I thought so"--he fumbled with his memory.
"Then it must have been when we went courting in April, nine-and-
ninety years ago," said the old woman dryly, "but you lads remember
me better than I do you. Can I sleep by your hearth to-night?"
"Where are you going to?" asked Old Gerard, half grinning, half
"Where I'll be welcome," said she.
"You're not welcome here. But there's nothing to steal, you may
sleep by the hearth."
"Thank you, shepherd," said the crone, "for your courtesy. Why were
you beating the boy?"
"Because he's one that won't work."
"Is he your slave?"
"He's my master's slave. But he's idle."
"I am not idle," said Young Gerard. "The year round I'm busy long
before dawn and long after dark."
"Then why are you idle to-day," sneered Old Gerard, "of all the days
in the year?"
"I've something else to think of," said the boy.
"You see," said the old man to the crone.
"Well," said she, "a boy cannot always be working. A boy will
sometimes be dreaming. Life isn't all labor, shepherd."
"What else is it?" said Old Gerard.
"Ho, ho, ho!" went Old Gerard.
"Ho, ho, ho!"
"Not for serfs," said Old Gerard.
"For serfs and lords," she said.
"Ho, ho, ho!"
"You were young once," said the crone.
Old Gerard said, "What if I was?"
"Good night," said the crone; and she went into the shed.
The shepherds looked after her, the old one stupidly, the young one
with lighted eyes.
"Will you get supper?" growled Old Gerard.
"No," said Young Gerard, "I won't. I want no supper. Put down that
rope. I am taller and stronger than you, and why I've let you go on
beating me so long I don't know, unless it is that you began to beat
me when you were taller and stronger than I. If you want any supper,
get it yourself."
Old Gerard turned red and purple. "The boy's mad!" he gasped. "Do
you know what happens to servants who defy their masters?"
"Yes," said Young Gerard, "then they're lords." And he too went into
"Try that on Combe Ivy!" bawled Old Gerard, "and see what you'll get
for it. I thank fortune, I'll be quit of you tomorrow-- What's that
to-do in the valley?" he muttered, and stared down the hill.
Away in the hollows and shadows he saw splashes of moving light, and
heard far-off snatches of song and laughter, but the movements and
sounds were still so distant that they seemed to be only those of
ghosts and echoes. Nearer they came and nearer, and now in the night
he could discern a great rabble stumbling among the dips and rises
of the hills.
"They're heading this way," said Old Gerard. "Why, tis the
wedding-party," he said amazed, "if it's not witchcraft. But why are they
"Hola! hola! hola!" shouted a tipsy voice hard by.
"Here's dribblings from the wineskin," said Old Gerard; and up the
track struggled a drunken man, waving a torch above his head. It was
the guest whom he had directed in the morning.
"Hola!" he shouted again on seeing Old Gerard.
"Well, racketer?" said the shepherd, with a chuckle.
"Shall a man not racket at another man's wedding?" he cried. "Let
some one be jolly, say I!"
"The bridegroom," said Old Gerard.
"Ha, ha!" laughed the other, "the bridegroom! He was first in high
feather and last in the sulks."
"The bride, then."
"Ha, ha! ha, ha! during the toasts he tried to kiss her."
"Hark!" said Old Gerard, "here they come." The sound of rollicking
increased as the rout drew nearer.
"He's taking her home across the river," said the guest. "I wouldn't
be she. There she sat, her pretty face fixed and frozen, but a
fright in her that shook her whole body. You could see it shake. And
we drank, how we drank! to the bride and the groom and their
daughters and sons, to the sire and the priest, and the ring and the
bed, to the kiss and the quarrel, to love which is one thing and
marriage which is another--Lord, how we drank! But she drank
nothing. And for all her terror the Rough could do no more with her
than with a stone. Something in her turned him cold every time.
Suddenly up he gets. We'll have no more of this,' he says, we'll
go.' Combe Ivy would have had them stay, but She's where she's used
to lord it here,' says Rough, I'll take her where I lord it, and
teach her who's master,' And he pushes down his chair and takes her
hand and pulls her away; and out we tumble after him. Combe Ivy
cries to him to wait for the horses, but no, We'll foot it,' says
he, up hill and down dale as the crow flies, and if she hates me
now without a cause I swear she'll love me with one at the end of
the dance.' We're dancing them as far as the Wildbrooks; on t'other
side they may dance for themselves. Here they come dancing--dance,
you!" cried the guest, and whirled his torch like a madman. And as
he whirled and staggered, up the hill came the wedding-party as
tipsy as he was: a motley procession, waving torches and garlands,
winecups, flagons, colored napkins, shouting and singing and beating
on trenchers and salvers--on anything that they could snatch from
the table as they quitted it. They came in all their bravery--in
doublets of flame-colored silk and blue, in scarlet leather and
green velvet, in purple slashed with silver and crimson fringed with
bronze; but their vests were unlaced, their hose sagged, and silk
and velvet and leather were stained bright or dark with wine. Some
had stuck leaves and flowers in their hair, others had tied their
forelocks with ribbons like horses on a holiday, and one had torn
his yellow mantle in two and capered in advance, waving the halves
in either hand like monstrous banners, or the flapping wings of some
golden bird of prey. In the midst of them, pressing forward and
pressed on by the riot behind, was the Rough Master of Coates, and
with him, always hanging a little away and shrinking under her veil,
Thea, whose right wrist he grasped in his left hand. Breathless she
was among the breathless rabble, who, gaining the hilltop seized
each other suddenly and broke into antics, shaking their napkins and
rattling on their plates. Their voices were hoarse with laughter and
drink, and their faces flushed with it; only among those red and
swollen faces, the bridegroom's, in the flare of the torches, looked
as black as the bride's looked white. The night about the newly-wedded
pair was one great din and flutter.
Then in a trice the dancers all lost breath, and the dance parted as
they staggered aside; and at the door of the shed Young Gerard
stood, and gazed through the broken revel at little Thea, and she
stood gazing at him. And behind and above him, along the walls of
the hut, and over the doorway, and making lovely the very roof, she
saw a cloud of snowwhite blossom.
Somebody cried, "Here's a boy. He shall dance too. Boy, is there
The others took up the clamor. "Drink! bring us something to drink!"
"The red grape!" cried one.
"The yellow grape!" cried another.
"The sap of the apple!"
"The juice of the pear!"
"The spirit that burns!"
"Bring us drink!" they cried in a breath.
"Will you have milk?" said Young Gerard.
At this the company burst into a roar of laughter. They laughed till
they rocked. But when they were silent little Thea spoke. She said
in a faint clear voice:
"I would like a cup of milk."
Young Gerard went into the hut and came out with his wooden cup
filled with milk, and brought it to her, and she drank. None spoke
or moved while she drank, but when she gave him the cup again one of
the crew said chuckling, "Now she has drunk, now she's merrier. Try
her again, Rough, try her on milk!"
Again the night reeled with their laughter. They surrounded the
wedded pair crying, "Kiss her! kiss her! kiss her!" Then the Rough
Master of Coates pulled her round to him, dark with anger, and tried
to kiss her. But she turned sharply in his arms, bending her head
away. And despite his force, and though he was a man and she little
more than a child, he could not make her mouth meet his. And the
laughter of the guests rose higher, and infuriated him.
Then he who had spoken before said, "By Hymen, the bride should kiss
something. If the lord's not good enough, let her kiss the churl!"
At this the revelers, wild with delight, beat on their trenchers and
shouted, "Ay, let her!"
And suddenly they surged in, parting Thea from the Rough; while some
pulled him back others dragged Young Gerard forward, till he stood
where the bridegroom had stood; and in that seething throng of
mockery he felt her clinging helplessly to him, and his arm went
"Kiss him! kiss him! kiss him!" cried the guests.
She looked up pitifully at him, and he bent his head. And she heard
"My cherry-tree's in flower."
She whispered, "Yes."
And they kissed each other.
Then the tumult of laughter passed all bounds, so that it was a
wonder if it was not heard at Combe Ivy; and the guests clashed
their trenchers one against another, and whirled their torches till
the sparks flew, yelling, "The bride's kiss! Ha, ha! the bride's
But the Rough Master of Coates had had enough; snarling like a mad
dog he thrust his way through the crowd on one side, as Old Gerard,
seeing his purpose, thrust through on the other, and both at the
same instant fell on the boy, the one with his scabbard, the other
with his staff.
"Kisses, will ye?" cried the Rough Master of Coates, "here's kisses
"Ha, ha!" cried the guests, "more kisses, more kisses for him that
kissed the bride!"
And then they all struck him at once, kicking and beating him
without mercy, till he lay prone on the earth. When he had fallen,
the Rough shouted, "Away to the Wildbrooks, away!"
And he seized Thea in his arms, and rushed along the brow of the
hill, and all the company followed in a confusion, and were
swallowed up in the night.
But Young Gerard raised himself a little, and groaned, "The