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Phantastes, A Faerie Romance for Men and Women by George MacDonald

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{The non-english portions need proofing badly! i have neglected
them for the most part. Chapter headers were italics as well and
may yet have errors? Illustrations of the hardcopy intermingle
with the text often, and so their markings are "rudely" placed
mid-sentence in this etext as well within {} marks. my use of ??
marks are spots that need to be checked with another printing or
edition as something *seems* missing but i cannot say what....
The poetry may have errors, particularly end of line punctuation.

Illustration captions removed from text but list at
front is still there because of references to them in the

Scanned with OmniPage Professional OCR software
donated by Caere Corporation, 1-800-535-7226.
Contact Mike Lough



A new Edition, with thirty-three new Illustrations by Arthur
Hughes; edited by Greville MacDonald

"In good sooth, my masters, this is no door.
Yet is it a little window, that looketh upon a great world."


For offering this new edition of my father's Phantastes, my
reasons are three. The first is to rescue the work from an
edition illustrated without the author's sanction, and so
unsuitably that all lovers of the book must have experienced some
real grief in turning its pages. With the copyright I secured
also the whole of that edition and turned it into pulp.
My second reason is to pay a small tribute to my father by
way of personal gratitude for this, his first prose work, which
was published nearly fifty years ago. Though unknown to many
lovers of his greater writings, none of these has exceeded it in
imaginative insight and power of expression. To me it rings with
the dominant chord of his life's purpose and work.
My third reason is that wider knowledge and love of the book
should be made possible. To this end I have been most happy in
the help of my father's old friend, who has illustrated the
book. I know of no other living artist who is capable of
portraying the spirit of Phantastes; and every reader of this
edition will, I believe, feel that the illustrations are a part
of the romance, and will gain through them some perception of the
brotherhood between George MacDonald and Arthur Hughes.

September 1905.




"Phantastes from `their fount all shapes deriving,
In new habiliments can quickly dight."
FLETCHER'S Purple Island

{Below is raw OCR it has not been proofed as i cannot read it!}
"Es lassen sich Erzahlungen ohne Zusammenhang, jedoch mit
Association, wie Traume dengkeennohgneedizhusamdimenhang; jedoeh
mit und voll schoner Worte sind, aber auch ohne allen Sinn und
Zusammenhang, hochstens einzelne Strophen verstandlich, wie
Bruchstucke aus den verjschledenartigsten Dingen, Diese svahre
Poesie kann Wlrkung, wie Musik haben. Darum ist die Natur so
rein poetisch wle die Stube eines Zauberers, eines Physikers,
eine Kinderstube elne Polterund Vorrathskammer

"Ein Mahrchen ist wie ein Traumbild ohne Zusammenhang. Ein
Ensemble wunderbarer Dinge und Begebenheiten, z. B. eine
dMusNkalische Pbantasie, die harmonischen Folgen einer
Aeolsharfe, die Natur slebst.
. . . . . . . . . .

"In einem echten Mahrchen muss ailes wunderbar, geheimnissvoll
undzusammenhangendsein; alles belebt, jeder auf eineandereArt Die
ganze Natur muss wunderlich mit der ganzen Geisterwelt gemiseht
sein; hier tritt die Zeit der Anarehie, der Gesetzlosigkeit
Frelheit, der Naturstand der Natur, die Zeit von der Welt ein
entgegengesetztes und eben daruel'ndiehr Weld der Wahrheit
durehaus Chaos der vollendeten Sehopfung ahnlich ist."--NOVALIS.


"A spirit . . .
. . . . . .
The undulating and silent well,
And rippling rivulet, and evening gloom,
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
Held commune with him; as if he and it
Were all that was."
SHELLEY'S Alastor.

I awoke one morning with the usual perplexity of mind which
accompanies the return of consciousness. As I lay and looked
through the eastern window of my room, a faint streak of peach-
colour, dividing a cloud that just rose above the low swell of
the horizon, announced the approach of the sun. As my thoughts,
which a deep and apparently dreamless sleep had dissolved, began
again to assume crystalline forms, the strange events of the
foregoing night presented themselves anew to my wondering
consciousness. The day before had been my one-and-twentieth
birthday. Among other ceremonies investing me with my legal
rights, the keys of an old secretary, in which my father had kept
his private papers, had been delivered up to me. As soon as I
was left alone, I ordered lights in the chamber where the
secretary stood, the first lights that had been there for many a
year; for, since my father's death, the room had been left
undisturbed. But, as if the darkness had been too long an inmate
to be easily expelled, and had dyed with blackness the walls to
which, bat-like, it had clung, these tapers served but ill to
light up the gloomy hangings, and seemed to throw yet darker
shadows into the hollows of the deep-wrought cornice. All the
further portions of the room lay shrouded in a mystery whose
deepest folds were gathered around the dark oak cabinet which I
now approached with a strange mingling of reverence and
curiosity. Perhaps, like a geologist, I was about to turn up to
the light some of the buried strata of the human world, with its
fossil remains charred by passion and petrified by tears.
Perhaps I was to learn how my father, whose personal history was
unknown to me, had woven his web of story; how he had found the
world, and how the world had left him. Perhaps I was to find
only the records of lands and moneys, how gotten and how secured;
coming down from strange men, and through troublous times, to me,
who knew little or nothing of them all. To solve my
speculations, and to dispel the awe which was fast gathering
around me as if the dead were drawing near, I approached the
secretary; and having found the key that fitted the upper
portion, I opened it with some difficulty, drew near it a heavy
high-backed chair, and sat down before a multitude of little
drawers and slides and pigeon-holes. But the door of a little
cupboard in the centre especially attracted my interest, as if
there lay the secret of this long-hidden world. Its key I found.

One of the rusty hinges cracked and broke as I opened the door:
it revealed a number of small pigeon-holes. These, however,
being but shallow compared with the depth of those around the
little cupboard, the outer ones reaching to the back of the desk,
I concluded that there must be some accessible space behind; and
found, indeed, that they were formed in a separate framework,
which admitted of the whole being pulled out in one piece.
Behind, I found a sort of flexible portcullis of small bars of
wood laid close together horizontally. After long search, and
trying many ways to move it, I discovered at last a scarcely
projecting point of steel on one side. I pressed this repeatedly
and hard with the point of an old tool that was lying near, till
at length it yielded inwards; and the little slide, flying up
suddenly, disclosed a chamber--empty, except that in one corner
lay a little heap of withered rose-leaves, whose long- lived
scent had long since departed; and, in another, a small packet of
papers, tied with a bit of ribbon, whose colour had gone with the
rose-scent. Almost fearing to touch them, they witnessed so
mutely to the law of oblivion, I leaned back in my chair, and
regarded them for a moment; when suddenly there stood on the
threshold of the little chamber, as though she had just emerged
from its depth, a tiny woman-form, as perfect in shape as if she
had been a small Greek statuette roused to life and motion. Her
dress was of a kind that could never grow old- fashioned, because
it was simply natural: a robe plaited in a band around the neck,
and confined by a belt about the waist, descended to her feet.
It was only afterwards, however, that I took notice of her dress,
although my surprise was by no means of so overpowering a degree
as such an apparition might naturally be expected to excite.
Seeing, however, as I suppose, some astonishment in my
countenance, she came forward within a yard of me, and said, in a
voice that strangely recalled a sensation of twilight, and reedy
river banks, and a low wind, even in this deathly room:--

"Anodos, you never saw such a little creature before, did you?"

"No," said I; "and indeed I hardly believe I do now."

"Ah! that is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the
first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition
convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable. I am
not going to argue with you, however, but to grant you a wish."

Here I could not help interrupting her with the foolish speech,
of which, however, I had no cause to repent--

"How can such a very little creature as you grant or
refuse anything?"

"Is that all the philosophy you have gained in one-and-twenty
years?" said she. "Form is much, but size is nothing. It is a
mere matter of relation. I suppose your six-foot lordship does
not feel altogether insignificant, though to others you do look
small beside your old Uncle Ralph, who rises above you a great
half-foot at least. But size is of so little consequence with
old me, that I may as well accommodate myself to your foolish

So saying, she leapt from the desk upon the floor, where she
stood a tall, gracious lady, with pale face and large blue eyes.
Her dark hair flowed behind, wavy but uncurled, down to her
waist, and against it her form stood clear in its robe of white.

"Now," said she, "you will believe me."

Overcome with the presence of a beauty which I could now
perceive, and drawn towards her by an attraction irresistible as
incomprehensible, I suppose I stretched out my arms towards her,
for she drew back a step or two, and said--

"Foolish boy, if you could touch me, I should hurt you. Besides,
I was two hundred and thirty-seven years old, last Midsummer eve;
and a man must not fall in love with his grandmother, you know."

"But you are not my grandmother," said I.

"How do you know that?" she retorted. "I dare say you know
something of your great-grandfathers a good deal further back
than that; but you know very little about your great-grandmothers
on either side. Now, to the point. Your little sister was
reading a fairy-tale to you last night."

"She was."

"When she had finished, she said, as she closed the book, `Is
there a fairy-country, brother?' You replied with a sigh, `I
suppose there is, if one could find the way into it.'"

"I did; but I meant something quite different from what you seem
to think."

"Never mind what I seem to think. You shall find the way into
Fairy Land to-morrow. Now look in my eyes."

Eagerly I did so. They filled me with an unknown longing. I
remembered somehow that my mother died when I was a baby. I
looked deeper and deeper, till they spread around me like seas,
and I sank in their waters. I forgot all the rest, till I found
myself at the window, whose gloomy curtains were withdrawn, and
where I stood gazing on a whole heaven of stars, small and
sparkling in the moonlight. Below lay a sea, still as death and
hoary in the moon, sweeping into bays and around capes and
islands, away, away, I knew not whither. Alas! it was no sea,
but a low bog burnished by the moon. "Surely there is such a sea
somewhere!" said I to myself. A low sweet voice beside me

"In Fairy Land, Anodos."

I turned, but saw no one. I closed the secretary, and went to my
own room, and to bed.

All this I recalled as I lay with half-closed eyes. I was soon
to find the truth of the lady's promise, that this day I should
discover the road into Fairy Land.


"`Where is the stream?' cried he, with tears. `Seest thou its not
in blue waves above us?' He looked up, and lo! the blue stream
was flowing gently over their heads."
--NOVALIS, Heinrich von Ofterdingen.

While these strange events were passing through my mind, I
suddenly, as one awakes to the consciousness that the sea has
been moaning by him for hours, or that the storm has been howling
about his window all night, became aware of the sound of running
water near me; and, looking out of bed, I saw that a large green
marble basin, in which I was wont to wash, and which stood on a
low pedestal of the same material in a corner of my room, was
overflowing like a spring; and that a stream of clear water was
running over the carpet, all the length of the room, finding its
outlet I knew not where. And, stranger still, where this carpet,
which I had myself designed to imitate a field of grass and
daisies, bordered the course of the little stream, the grass-
blades and daisies seemed to wave in a tiny breeze that followed
the water's flow; while under the rivulet they bent and swayed
with every motion of the changeful current, as if they were about
to dissolve with it, and, forsaking their fixed form, become
fluent as the waters.

My dressing-table was an old-fashioned piece of furniture of
black oak, with drawers all down the front. These were
elaborately carved in foliage, of which ivy formed the chief
part. The nearer end of this table remained just as it had been,
but on the further end a singular change had commenced. I
happened to fix my eye on a little cluster of ivy-leaves. The
first of these was evidently the work of the carver; the next
looked curious; the third was unmistakable ivy; and just beyond
it a tendril of clematis had twined itself about the gilt handle
of one of the drawers. Hearing next a slight motion above me, I
looked up, and saw that the branches and leaves designed upon the
curtains of my bed were slightly in motion. Not knowing what
change might follow next, I thought it high time to get up; and,
springing from the bed, my bare feet alighted upon a cool green
sward; and although I dressed in all haste, I found myself
completing my toilet under the boughs of a great tree, whose top
waved in the golden stream of the sunrise with many interchanging
lights, and with shadows of leaf and branch gliding over leaf and
branch, as the cool morning wind swung it to and fro, like a
sinking sea-wave.

After washing as well as I could in the clear stream, I rose and
looked around me. The tree under which I seemed to have lain all
night was one of the advanced guard of a dense forest, towards
which the rivulet ran. Faint traces of a footpath, much
overgrown with grass and moss, and with here and there a
pimpernel even, were discernible along the right bank.
"This," thought I, "must surely be the path into Fairy Land,
which the lady of last night promised I should so soon find." I
crossed the rivulet, and accompanied it, keeping the footpath on
its right bank, until it led me, as I expected, into the wood.
Here I left it, without any good reason: and with a vague feeling
that I ought to have followed its course, I took a more southerly


"Man doth usurp all space,
Stares thee, in rock, bush, river, in
the face.
Never thine eyes behold a tree;
'Tis no sea thou seest in the sea,
'Tis but a disguised humanity.
To avoid thy fellow, vain thy plan;
All that interests a man, is man."

The trees, which were far apart where I entered, giving free
passage to the level rays of the sun, closed rapidly as I
advanced, so that ere long their crowded stems barred the
sunlight out, forming as it were a thick grating between me and
the East. I seemed to be advancing towards a second midnight.
In the midst of the intervening twilight, however, before I
entered what appeared to be the darkest portion of the forest, I
saw a country maiden coming towards me from its very depths. She
did not seem to observe me, for she was apparently intent upon a
bunch of wild flowers which she carried in her hand. I could
hardly see her face; for, though she came direct towards me, she
never looked up. But when we met, instead of passing, she turned
and walked alongside of me for a few yards, still keeping her
face downwards, and busied with her flowers. She spoke rapidly,
however, all the time, in a low tone, as if talking to herself,
but evidently addressing the purport of her words to me.

She seemed afraid of being observed by some lurking foe. "Trust
the Oak," said she; "trust the Oak, and the Elm, and the great
Beech. Take care of the Birch, for though she is honest, she is
too young not to be changeable. But shun the Ash and the Alder;
for the Ash is an ogre,--you will know him by his thick fingers;
and the Alder will smother you with her web of hair, if you let
her near you at night." All this was uttered without pause or
alteration of tone. Then she turned suddenly and left me,
walking still with the same unchanging gait. I could not
conjecture what she meant, but satisfied myself with thinking
that it would be time enough to find out her meaning when there
was need to make use of her warning, and that the occasion would
reveal the admonition. I concluded from the flowers that she
carried, that the forest could not be everywhere so dense as it
appeared from where I was now walking; and I was right in this
conclusion. For soon I came to a more open part, and by-and-by
crossed a wide grassy glade, on which were several circles of
brighter green. But even here I was struck with the utter
stillness. No bird sang. No insect hummed. Not a living
creature crossed my way. Yet somehow the whole environment
seemed only asleep, and to wear even in sleep an air of
expectation. The trees seemed all to have an expression of
conscious mystery, as if they said to themselves, "we could, an'
if we would." They had all a meaning look about them. Then I
remembered that night is the fairies' day, and the moon their
sun; and I thought--Everything sleeps and dreams now: when the
night comes, it will be different. At the same time I, being a
man and a child of the day, felt some anxiety as to how I should
fare among the elves and other children of the night who wake
when mortals dream, and find their common life in those wondrous
hours that flow noiselessly over the moveless death-like forms of
men and women and children, lying strewn and parted beneath the
weight of the heavy waves of night, which flow on and beat them
down, and hold them drowned and senseless, until the ebbtide
comes, and the waves sink away, back into the ocean of the dark.
But I took courage and went on. Soon, however, I became again
anxious, though from another cause. I had eaten nothing that
day, and for an hour past had been feeling the want of food. So
I grew afraid lest I should find nothing to meet my human
necessities in this strange place; but once more I comforted
myself with hope and went on.

Before noon, I fancied I saw a thin blue smoke rising amongst the
stems of larger trees in front of me; and soon I came to an open
spot of ground in which stood a little cottage, so built that the
stems of four great trees formed its corners, while their
branches met and intertwined over its roof, heaping a great cloud
of leaves over it, up towards the heavens. I wondered at finding
a human dwelling in this neighbourhood; and yet it did not look
altogether human, though sufficiently so to encourage me to
expect to find some sort of food. Seeing no door, I went round
to the other side, and there I found one, wide open. A woman sat
beside it, preparing some vegetables for dinner. This was homely
and comforting. As I came near, she looked up, and seeing me,
showed no surprise, but bent her head again over her work, and
said in a low tone:

"Did you see my daughter?"

"I believe I did," said I. "Can you give me something to eat,
for I am very hungry?"
"With pleasure," she replied, in the same tone; "but do not say
anything more, till you come into the house, for the Ash is
watching us."

Having said this, she rose and led the way into the cottage;
which, I now saw, was built of the stems of small trees set
closely together, and was furnished with rough chairs and tables,
from which even the bark had not been removed. As soon as she
had shut the door and set a chair--

"You have fairy blood in you," said she, looking hard at me.

"How do you know that?"

"You could not have got so far into this wood if it were not so;
and I am trying to find out some trace of it in your countenance.
I think I see it."

"What do you see?"

"Oh, never mind: I may be mistaken in that."

"But how then do you come to live here?"

"Because I too have fairy blood in me."

Here I, in my turn, looked hard at her, and thought I could
perceive, notwithstanding the coarseness of her features, and
especially the heaviness of her eyebrows, a something unusual--I
could hardly call it grace, and yet it was an expression that
strangely contrasted with the form of her features. I noticed
too that her hands were delicately formed, though brown with work
and exposure.

"I should be ill," she continued, "if I did not live on the
borders of the fairies' country, and now and then eat of their
food. And I see by your eyes that you are not quite free of the
same need; though, from your education and the activity of your
mind, you have felt it less than I. You may be further removed
too from the fairy race."

I remembered what the lady had said about my grandmothers.

Here she placed some bread and some milk before me, with a kindly
apology for the homeliness of the fare, with which, however, I
was in no humour to quarrel. I now thought it time to try to get
some explanation of the strange words both of her daughter and

"What did you mean by speaking so about the Ash?"

She rose and looked out of the little window. My eyes followed
her; but as the window was too small to allow anything to be seen
from where I was sitting, I rose and looked over her shoulder. I
had just time to see, across the open space, on the edge of the
denser forest, a single large ash-tree, whose foliage showed
bluish, amidst the truer green of the other trees around it; when
she pushed me back with an expression of impatience and terror,
and then almost shut out the light from the window by setting up
a large old book in it.

"In general," said she, recovering her composure, "there is no
danger in the daytime, for then he is sound asleep; but there is
something unusual going on in the woods; there must be some
solemnity among the fairies to-night, for all the trees are
restless, and although they cannot come awake, they see and hear
in their sleep."

"But what danger is to be dreaded from him?"

Instead of answering the question, she went again to the window
and looked out, saying she feared the fairies would be
interrupted by foul weather, for a storm was brewing in the west.

"And the sooner it grows dark, the sooner the Ash will be awake,"
added she.

I asked her how she knew that there was any unusual excitement in
the woods. She replied--

"Besides the look of the trees, the dog there is unhappy; and the
eyes and ears of the white rabbit are redder than usual, and he
frisks about as if he expected some fun. If the cat were at
home, she would have her back up; for the young fairies pull the
sparks out of her tail with bramble thorns, and she knows when
they are coming. So do I, in another way."

At this instant, a grey cat rushed in like a demon, and
disappeared in a hole in the wall.

"There, I told you!" said the woman.

"But what of the ash-tree?" said I, returning once more to the
subject. Here, however, the young woman, whom I had met in the
morning, entered. A smile passed between the mother and
daughter; and then the latter began to help her mother in little
household duties.

"I should like to stay here till the evening," I said; "and then
go on my journey, if you will allow me."

"You are welcome to do as you please; only it might be better to
stay all night, than risk the dangers of the wood then. Where
are you going?"

"Nay, that I do not know," I replied, "but I wish to see all that
is to be seen, and therefore I should like to start just at
"You are a bold youth, if you have any idea of what you are
daring; but a rash one, if you know nothing about it; and, excuse
me, you do not seem very well informed about the country and its
manners. However, no one comes here but for some reason, either
known to himself or to those who have charge of him; so you shall
do just as you wish."

Accordingly I sat down, and feeling rather tired, and disinclined
for further talk, I asked leave to look at the old book which
still screened the window. The woman brought it to me directly,
but not before taking another look towards the forest, and then
drawing a white blind over the window. I sat down opposite to it
by the table, on which I laid the great old volume, and read. It
contained many wondrous tales of Fairy Land, and olden times, and
the Knights of King Arthur's table. I read on and on, till the
shades of the afternoon began to deepen; for in the midst of the
forest it gloomed earlier than in the open country. At length I
came to this passage--

"Here it chanced, that upon their quest, Sir Galahad and Sir
Percivale rencountered in the depths of a great forest. Now, Sir
Galahad was dight all in harness of silver, clear and shining;
the which is a delight to look upon, but full hasty to tarnish,
and withouten the labour of a ready squire, uneath to be kept
fair and clean. And yet withouten squire or page, Sir Galahad's
armour shone like the moon. And he rode a great white mare,
whose bases and other housings were black, but all besprent with
fair lilys of silver sheen. Whereas Sir Percivale bestrode a red
horse, with a tawny mane and tail; whose trappings were all to-
smirched with mud and mire; and his armour was wondrous rosty to
behold, ne could he by any art furbish it again; so that as the
sun in his going down shone twixt the bare trunks of the trees,
full upon the knights twain, the one did seem all shining with
light, and the other all to glow with ruddy fire. Now it came
about in this wise. For Sir Percivale, after his escape from the
demon lady, whenas the cross on the handle of his sword smote him
to the heart, and he rove himself through the thigh, and escaped
away, he came to a great wood; and, in nowise cured of his fault,
yet bemoaning the same, the damosel of the alder tree encountered
him, right fair to see; and with her fair words and false
countenance she comforted him and beguiled him, until he followed
her where she led him to a---"

Here a low hurried cry from my hostess caused me to look up from
the book, and I read no more.

"Look there!" she said; "look at his fingers!"

Just as I had been reading in the book, the setting sun was
shining through a cleft in the clouds piled up in the west; and a
shadow as of a large distorted hand, with thick knobs and humps
on the fingers, so that it was much wider across the fingers than
across the undivided part of the hand, passed slowly over the
little blind, and then as slowly returned in the opposite

"He is almost awake, mother; and greedier than usual to-night."

"Hush, child; you need not make him more angry with us than he
is; for you do not know how soon something may happen to oblige
us to be in the forest after nightfall."

"But you are in the forest," said I; "how is it that you are safe

"He dares not come nearer than he is now," she replied; "for any
of those four oaks, at the corners of our cottage, would tear him
to pieces; they are our friends. But he stands there and makes
awful faces at us sometimes, and stretches out his long arms and
fingers, and tries to kill us with fright; for, indeed, that is
his favourite way of doing. Pray, keep out of his way to-night."

"Shall I be able to see these things?" said I.

"That I cannot tell yet, not knowing how much of the fairy nature
there is in you. But we shall soon see whether you can discern
the fairies in my little garden, and that will be some guide to

"Are the trees fairies too, as well as the flowers?" I asked.

"They are of the same race," she replied; "though those you call
fairies in your country are chiefly the young children of the
flower fairies. They are very fond of having fun with the thick
people, as they call you; for, like most children, they like fun
better than anything else."

"Why do you have flowers so near you then? Do they not annoy

"Oh, no, they are very amusing, with their mimicries of grown
people, and mock solemnities. Sometimes they will act a whole
play through before my eyes, with perfect composure and
assurance, for they are not afraid of me. Only, as soon as they
have done, they burst into peals of tiny laughter, as if it was
such a joke to have been serious over anything. These I speak
of, however, are the fairies of the garden. They are more staid
and educated than those of the fields and woods. Of course they
have near relations amongst the wild flowers, but they patronise
them, and treat them as country cousins, who know nothing of
life, and very little of manners. Now and then, however, they
are compelled to envy the grace and simplicity of the natural

"Do they live IN the flowers?" I said.

"I cannot tell," she replied. "There is something in it I do not
understand. Sometimes they disappear altogether, even from me,
though I know they are near. They seem to die always with the
flowers they resemble, and by whose names they are called; but
whether they return to life with the fresh flowers, or, whether
it be new flowers, new fairies, I cannot tell. They have as many
sorts of dispositions as men and women, while their moods are yet
more variable; twenty different expressions will cross their
little faces in half a minute. I often amuse myself with
watching them, but I have never been able to make personal
acquaintance with any of them. If I speak to one, he or she
looks up in my face, as if I were not worth heeding, gives a
little laugh, and runs away." Here the woman started, as if
suddenly recollecting herself, and said in a low voice to her
daughter, "Make haste--go and watch him, and see in what
direction he goes."

I may as well mention here, that the conclusion I arrived at from
the observations I was afterwards able to make, was, that the
flowers die because the fairies go away; not that the fairies
disappear because the flowers die. The flowers seem a sort of
houses for them, or outer bodies, which they can put on or off
when they please. Just as you could form some idea of the nature
of a man from the kind of house he built, if he followed his own
taste, so you could, without seeing the fairies, tell what any
one of them is like, by looking at the flower till you feel that
you understand it. For just what the flower says to you, would
the face and form of the fairy say; only so much more plainly as
a face and human figure can express more than a flower. For the
house or the clothes, though like the inhabitant or the wearer,
cannot be wrought into an equal power of utterance. Yet you
would see a strange resemblance, almost oneness, between the
flower and the fairy, which you could not describe, but which
described itself to you. Whether all the flowers have fairies, I
cannot determine, any more than I can be sure whether all men and
women have souls.

The woman and I continued the conversation for a few minutes
longer. I was much interested by the information she gave me,
and astonished at the language in which she was able to convey
it. It seemed that intercourse with the fairies was no bad
education in itself. But now the daughter returned with the
news, that the Ash had just gone away in a south-westerly
direction; and, as my course seemed to lie eastward, she hoped I
should be in no danger of meeting him if I departed at once. I
looked out of the little window, and there stood the ash-tree, to
my eyes the same as before; but I believed that they knew better
than I did, and prepared to go. I pulled out my purse, but to my
dismay there was nothing in it. The woman with a smile begged me
not to trouble myself, for money was not of the slightest use
there; and as I might meet with people in my journeys whom I
could not recognise to be fairies, it was well I had no money to
offer, for nothing offended them so much.

"They would think," she added, "that you were making game of
them; and that is their peculiar privilege with regard to us."
So we went together into the little garden which sloped down
towards a lower part of the wood.

Here, to my great pleasure, all was life and bustle. There was
still light enough from the day to see a little; and the pale
half-moon, halfway to the zenith, was reviving every moment. The
whole garden was like a carnival, with tiny, gaily decorated
forms, in groups, assemblies, processions, pairs or trios, moving
stately on, running about wildly, or sauntering hither or
thither. From the cups or bells of tall flowers, as from
balconies, some looked down on the masses below, now bursting
with laughter, now grave as owls; but even in their deepest
solemnity, seeming only to be waiting for the arrival of the next
laugh. Some were launched on a little marshy stream at the
bottom, in boats chosen from the heaps of last year's leaves that
lay about, curled and withered. These soon sank with them;
whereupon they swam ashore and got others. Those who took fresh
rose-leaves for their boats floated the longest; but for these
they had to fight; for the fairy of the rose-tree complained
bitterly that they were stealing her clothes, and defended her
property bravely.

"You can't wear half you've got," said some.

"Never you mind; I don't choose you to have them: they are my

"All for the good of the community!" said one, and ran off with a
great hollow leaf. But the rose-fairy sprang after him (what a
beauty she was! only too like a drawing-room young lady), knocked
him heels-over-head as he ran, and recovered her great red leaf.
But in the meantime twenty had hurried off in different
directions with others just as good; and the little creature sat
down and cried, and then, in a pet, sent a perfect pink snowstorm
of petals from her tree, leaping from branch to branch, and
stamping and shaking and pulling. At last, after another good
cry, she chose the biggest she could find, and ran away laughing,
to launch her boat amongst the rest.

But my attention was first and chiefly attracted by a group of
fairies near the cottage, who were talking together around what
seemed a last dying primrose. They talked singing, and their
talk made a song, something like this:

"Sister Snowdrop died
Before we were born."
"She came like a bride
In a snowy morn."
"What's a bride?"
"What is snow?
"Never tried."
"Do not know."
"Who told you about her?"
"Little Primrose there
Cannot do without her."
"Oh, so sweetly fair!"
"Never fear,
She will come,
Primrose dear."
"Is she dumb?"

"She'll come by-and-by."
"You will never see her."
"She went home to dies,
"Till the new year."
"Snowdrop!" "'Tis no good
To invite her."
"Primrose is very rude,
"I will bite her."

"Oh, you naughty Pocket!
"Look, she drops her head."
"She deserved it, Rocket,
"And she was nearly dead."
"To your hammock--off with you!"
"And swing alone."
"No one will laugh with you."
"No, not one."

"Now let us moan."
"And cover her o'er."
"Primrose is gone."
"All but the flower."
"Here is a leaf."
"Lay her upon it."
"Follow in grief."
"Pocket has done it."

"Deeper, poor creature!
Winter may come."
"He cannot reach her--
That is a hum."
"She is buried, the beauty!"
"Now she is done."
"That was the duty."
"Now for the fun."

And with a wild laugh they sprang away, most of them towards the
cottage. During the latter part of the song-talk, they had
formed themselves into a funeral procession, two of them bearing
poor Primrose, whose death Pocket had hastened by biting her
stalk, upon one of her own great leaves. They bore her solemnly
along some distance, and then buried her under a tree. Although
I say HER I saw nothing but the withered primrose-flower on its
long stalk. Pocket, who had been expelled from the company by
common consent, went sulkily away towards her hammock, for she
was the fairy of the calceolaria, and looked rather wicked. When
she reached its stem, she stopped and looked round. I could not
help speaking to her, for I stood near her. I said, "Pocket, how
could you be so naughty?"

"I am never naughty," she said, half-crossly, half-defiantly;
"only if you come near my hammock, I will bite you, and then you
will go away."

"Why did you bite poor Primrose?"

"Because she said we should never see Snowdrop; as if we were not
good enough to look at her, and she was, the proud thing!--served
her right!"

"Oh, Pocket, Pocket," said I; but by this time the party which
had gone towards the house, rushed out again, shouting and
screaming with laughter. Half of them were on the cat's back,
and half held on by her fur and tail, or ran beside her; till,
more coming to their help, the furious cat was held fast; and
they proceeded to pick the sparks out of her with thorns and
pins, which they handled like harpoons. Indeed, there were more
instruments at work about her than there could have been sparks
in her. One little fellow who held on hard by the tip of the
tail, with his feet planted on the ground at an angle of forty-
five degrees, helping to keep her fast, administered a continuous
flow of admonitions to Pussy.

"Now, Pussy, be patient. You know quite well it is all for your
good. You cannot be comfortable with all those sparks in you;
and, indeed, I am charitably disposed to believe" (here he became
very pompous) "that they are the cause of all your bad temper; so
we must have them all out, every one; else we shall be reduced to
the painful necessity of cutting your claws, and pulling out your
eye-teeth. Quiet! Pussy, quiet!"

But with a perfect hurricane of feline curses, the poor animal
broke loose, and dashed across the garden and through the hedge,
faster than even the fairies could follow. "Never mind, never
mind, we shall find her again; and by that time she will have
laid in a fresh stock of sparks. Hooray!" And off they set,
after some new mischief.

But I will not linger to enlarge on the amusing display of these
frolicsome creatures. Their manners and habits are now so well
known to the world, having been so often described by
eyewitnesses, that it would be only indulging self-conceit, to
add my account in full to the rest. I cannot help wishing,
however, that my readers could see them for themselves.
Especially do I desire that they should see the fairy of the
daisy; a little, chubby, round-eyed child, with such innocent
trust in his look! Even the most mischievous of the fairies
would not tease him, although he did not belong to their set at
all, but was quite a little country bumpkin. He wandered about
alone, and looked at everything, with his hands in his little
pockets, and a white night-cap on, the darling! He was not so
beautiful as many other wild flowers I saw afterwards, but so
dear and loving in his looks and little confident ways.


"When bale is att hyest, boote is nyest."
Ballad of Sir Aldingar.

By this time, my hostess was quite anxious that I should be gone.
So, with warm thanks for their hospitality, I took my leave, and
went my way through the little garden towards the forest. Some
of the garden flowers had wandered into the wood, and were
growing here and there along the path, but the trees soon became
too thick and shadowy for them. I particularly noticed some tall
lilies, which grew on both sides of the way, with large
dazzlingly white flowers, set off by the universal green. It was
now dark enough for me to see that every flower was shining with
a light of its own. Indeed it was by this light that I saw them,
an internal, peculiar light, proceeding from each, and not
reflected from a common source of light as in the daytime. This
light sufficed only for the plant itself, and was not strong
enough to cast any but the faintest shadows around it, or to
illuminate any of the neighbouring objects with other than the
faintest tinge of its own individual hue. From the lilies above
mentioned, from the campanulas, from the foxgloves, and every
bell-shaped flower, curious little figures shot up their heads,
peeped at me, and drew back. They seemed to inhabit them, as
snails their shells but I was sure some of them were intruders,
and belonged to the gnomes or goblin-fairies, who inhabit the
ground and earthy creeping plants. From the cups of Arum lilies,
creatures with great heads and grotesque faces shot up like Jack-
in-the-box, and made grimaces at me; or rose slowly and slily
over the edge of the cup, and spouted water at me, slipping
suddenly back, like those little soldier-crabs that inhabit the
shells of sea-snails. Passing a row of tall thistles, I saw them
crowded with little faces, which peeped every one from behind its
flower, and drew back as quickly; and I heard them saying to each
other, evidently intending me to hear, but the speaker always
hiding behind his tuft, when I looked in his direction, "Look at
him! Look at him! He has begun a story without a beginning, and
it will never have any end. He! he! he! Look at him!"

But as I went further into the wood, these sights and sounds
became fewer, giving way to others of a different character. A
little forest of wild hyacinths was alive with exquisite
creatures, who stood nearly motionless, with drooping necks,
holding each by the stem of her flower, and swaying gently with
it, whenever a low breath of wind swung the crowded floral
belfry. In like manner, though differing of course in form and
meaning, stood a group of harebells, like little angels waiting,
ready, till they were wanted to go on some yet unknown message.
In darker nooks, by the mossy roots of the trees, or in little
tufts of grass, each dwelling in a globe of its own green light,
weaving a network of grass and its shadows, glowed the glowworms.

They were just like the glowworms of our own land, for they are
fairies everywhere; worms in the day, and glowworms at night,
when their own can appear, and they can be themselves to others
as well as themselves. But they had their enemies here. For I
saw great strong-armed beetles, hurrying about with most unwieldy
haste, awkward as elephant-calves, looking apparently for
glowworms; for the moment a beetle espied one, through what to it
was a forest of grass, or an underwood of moss, it pounced upon
it, and bore it away, in spite of its feeble resistance.
Wondering what their object could be, I watched one of the
beetles, and then I discovered a thing I could not account for.
But it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land; and
one who travels there soon learns to forget the very idea of
doing so, and takes everything as it comes; like a child, who,
being in a chronic condition of wonder, is surprised at nothing.
What I saw was this. Everywhere, here and there over the ground,
lay little, dark-looking lumps of something more like earth than
anything else, and about the size of a chestnut. The beetles
hunted in couples for these; and having found one, one of them
stayed to watch it, while the other hurried to find a glowworm.
By signals, I presume, between them, the latter soon found his
companion again: they then took the glowworm and held its
luminous tail to the dark earthly pellet; when lo, it shot up
into the air like a sky-rocket, seldom, however, reaching the
height of the highest tree. Just like a rocket too, it burst in
the air, and fell in a shower of the most gorgeously coloured
sparks of every variety of hue; golden and red, and purple and
green, and blue and rosy fires crossed and inter-crossed each
other, beneath the shadowy heads, and between the columnar stems
of the forest trees. They never used the same glowworm twice, I
observed; but let him go, apparently uninjured by the use they
had made of him.

In other parts, the whole of the immediately surrounding foliage
was illuminated by the interwoven dances in the air of splendidly
coloured fire-flies, which sped hither and thither, turned,
twisted, crossed, and recrossed, entwining every complexity of
intervolved motion. Here and there, whole mighty trees glowed
with an emitted phosphorescent light. You could trace the very
course of the great roots in the earth by the faint light that
came through; and every twig, and every vein on every leaf was a
streak of pale fire.

All this time, as I went through the wood, I was haunted with the
feeling that other shapes, more like my own size and mien, were
moving about at a little distance on all sides of me. But as yet
I could discern none of them, although the moon was high enough
to send a great many of her rays down between the trees, and
these rays were unusually bright, and sight-giving,
notwithstanding she was only a half-moon. I constantly imagined,
however, that forms were visible in all directions except that to
which my gaze was turned; and that they only became invisible, or
resolved themselves into other woodland shapes, the moment my
looks were directed towards them. However this may have been,
except for this feeling of presence, the woods seemed utterly
bare of anything like human companionship, although my glance
often fell on some object which I fancied to be a human form; for
I soon found that I was quite deceived; as, the moment I fixed my
regard on it, it showed plainly that it was a bush, or a tree, or
a rock.

Soon a vague sense of discomfort possessed me. With variations
of relief, this gradually increased; as if some evil thing were
wandering about in my neighbourhood, sometimes nearer and
sometimes further off, but still approaching. The
feelingcontinued and deepened, until all my pleasure in the shows
of various kinds that everywhere betokened the presence of the
merry fairies vanished by degrees, and left me full of anxiety
and fear, which I was unable to associate with any definite
object whatever. At length the thought crossed my mind with
horror: "Can it be possible that the Ash is looking for me? or
that, in his nightly wanderings, his path is gradually verging
towards mine?" I comforted myself, however, by remembering that
he had started quite in another direction; one that would lead
him, if he kept it, far apart from me; especially as, for the
last two or three hours, I had been diligently journeying
eastward. I kept on my way, therefore, striving by direct effort
of the will against the encroaching fear; and to this end
occupying my mind, as much as I could, with other thoughts. I
was so far successful that, although I was conscious, if I
yielded for a moment, I should be almost overwhelmed with horror,
I was yet able to walk right on for an hour or more. What I
feared I could not tell. Indeed, I was left in a state of the
vaguest uncertainty as regarded the nature of my enemy, and knew
not the mode or object of his attacks; for, somehow or other,
none of my questions had succeeded in drawing a definite answer
from the dame in the cottage. How then to defend myself I knew
not; nor even by what sign I might with certainty recognise the
presence of my foe; for as yet this vague though powerful fear
was all the indication of danger I had. To add to my distress,
the clouds in the west had risen nearly to the top of the skies,
and they and the moon were travelling slowly towards each other.
Indeed, some of their advanced guard had already met her, and she
had begun to wade through a filmy vapour that gradually deepened.

At length she was for a moment almost entirely obscured. When
she shone out again, with a brilliancy increased by the contrast,
I saw plainly on the path before me--from around which at this
spot the trees receded, leaving a small space of green sward--the
shadow of a large hand, with knotty joints and protuberances here
and there. Especially I remarked, even in the midst of my fear,
the bulbous points of the fingers. I looked hurriedly all
around, but could see nothing from which such a shadow should
fall. Now, however, that I had a direction, however
undetermined, in which to project my apprehension, the very sense
of danger and need of action overcame that stifling which is the
worst property of fear. I reflected in a moment, that if this
were indeed a shadow, it was useless to look for the object that
cast it in any other direction than between the shadow and the
moon. I looked, and peered, and intensified my vision, all to no
purpose. I could see nothing of that kind, not even an ash-tree
in the neighbourhood. Still the shadow remained; not steady, but
moving to and fro, and once I saw the fingers close, and grind
themselves close, like the claws of a wild animal, as if in
uncontrollable longing for some anticipated prey. There seemed
but one mode left of discovering the substance of this shadow. I
went forward boldly, though with an inward shudder which I would
not heed, to the spot where the shadow lay, threw myself on the
ground, laid my head within the form of the hand, and turned my
eyes towards the moon Good heavens! what did I see? I wonder
that ever I arose, and that the very shadow of the hand did not
hold me where I lay until fear had frozen my brain. I saw the
strangest figure; vague, shadowy, almost transparent, in the
central parts, and gradually deepening in substance towards the
outside, until it ended in extremities capable of casting such a
shadow as fell from the hand, through the awful fingers of which
I now saw the moon. The hand was uplifted in the attitude of a
paw about to strike its prey. But the face, which throbbed with
fluctuating and pulsatory visibility--not from changes in the
light it reflected, but from changes in its own conditions of
reflecting power, the alterations being from within, not from
without--it was horrible. I do not know how to describe it. It
caused a new sensation. Just as one cannot translate a horrible
odour, or a ghastly pain, or a fearful sound, into words, so I
cannot describe this new form of awful hideousness. I can only
try to describe something that is not it, but seems somewhat
parallel to it; or at least is suggested by it. It reminded me
of what I had heard of vampires; for the face resembled that of a
corpse more than anything else I can think of; especially when I
can conceive such a face in motion, but not suggesting any life
as the source of the motion. The features were rather handsome
than otherwise, except the mouth, which had scarcely a curve in
it. The lips were of equal thickness; but the thickness was not
at all remarkable, even although they looked slightly swollen.
They seemed fixedly open, but were not wide apart. Of course I
did not REMARK these lineaments at the time: I was too horrified
for that. I noted them afterwards, when the form returned on my
inward sight with a vividness too intense to admit of my doubting
the accuracy of the reflex. But the most awful of the features
were the eyes. These were alive, yet not with life.

They seemed lighted up with an infinite greed. A gnawing
voracity, which devoured the devourer, seemed to be the
indwelling and propelling power of the whole ghostly apparition.
I lay for a few moments simply imbruted with terror; when another
cloud, obscuring the moon, delivered me from the immediately
paralysing effects of the presence to the vision of the object of
horror, while it added the force of imagination to the power of
fear within me; inasmuch as, knowing far worse cause for
apprehension than before, I remained equally ignorant from what I
had to defend myself, or how to take any precautions: he might be
upon me in the darkness any moment. I sprang to my feet, and
sped I knew not whither, only away from the spectre. I thought
no longer of the path, and often narrowly escaped dashing myself
against a tree, in my headlong flight of fear.

Great drops of rain began to patter on the leaves. Thunder began
to mutter, then growl in the distance. I ran on. The rain fell
heavier. At length the thick leaves could hold it up no longer;
and, like a second firmament, they poured their torrents on the
earth. I was soon drenched, but that was nothing. I came to a
small swollen stream that rushed through the woods. I had a
vague hope that if I crossed this stream, I should be in safety
from my pursuer; but I soon found that my hope was as false as it
was vague. I dashed across the stream, ascended a rising ground,
and reached a more open space, where stood only great trees.
Through them I directed my way, holding eastward as nearly as I
could guess, but not at all certain that I was not moving in an
opposite direction. My mind was just reviving a little from its
extreme terror, when, suddenly, a flash of lightning, or rather a
cataract of successive flashes, behind me, seemed to throw on the
ground in front of me, but far more faintly than before, from the
extent of the source of the light, the shadow of the same
horrible hand. I sprang forward, stung to yet wilder speed; but
had not run many steps before my foot slipped, and, vainly
attempting to recover myself, I fell at the foot of one of the
large trees. Half-stunned, I yet raised myself, and almost
involuntarily looked back. All I saw was the hand within three
feet of my face. But, at the same moment, I felt two large soft
arms thrown round me from behind; and a voice like a woman's
said: "Do not fear the goblin; he dares not hurt you now." With
that, the hand was suddenly withdrawn as from a fire, and
disappeared in the darkness and the rain. Overcome with the
mingling of terror and joy, I lay for some time almost
insensible. The first thing I remember is the sound of a voice
above me, full and low, and strangely reminding me of the sound
of a gentle wind amidst the leaves of a great tree. It murmured
over and over again: "I may love him, I may love him; for he is
a man, and I am only a beech-tree." I found I was seated on the
ground, leaning against a human form, and supported still by the
arms around me, which I knew to be those of a woman who must be
rather above the human size, and largely proportioned. I turned
my head, but without moving otherwise, for I feared lest the arms
should untwine themselves; and clear, somewhat mournful eyes met
mine. At least that is how they impressed me; but I could see
very little of colour or outline as we sat in the dark and rainy
shadow of the tree. The face seemed very lovely, and solemn from
its stillness; with the aspect of one who is quite content, but
waiting for something. I saw my conjecture from her arms was
correct: she was above the human scale throughout, but not

"Why do you call yourself a beech-tree?" I said.

"Because I am one," she replied, in the same low, musical,
murmuring voice.

"You are a woman," I returned.

"Do you think so? Am I very like a woman then?"

"You are a very beautiful woman. Is it possible you should not
know it?"

"I am very glad you think so. I fancy I feel like a woman
sometimes. I do so to-night--and always when the rain drips from
my hair. For there is an old prophecy in our woods that one day
we shall all be men and women like you. Do you know anything
about it in your region? Shall I be very happy when I am a
woman? I fear not, for it is always in nights like these that I
feel like one. But I long to be a woman for all that."

I had let her talk on, for her voice was like a solution of all
musical sounds. I now told her that I could hardly say whether
women were happy or not. I knew one who had not been happy; and
for my part, I had often longed for Fairy Land, as she now longed
for the world of men. But then neither of us had lived long, and
perhaps people grew happier as they grew older. Only I doubted

I could not help sighing. She felt the sigh, for her arms were
still round me. She asked me how old I was.

"Twenty-one," said I.

"Why, you baby!" said she, and kissed me with the sweetest kiss
of winds and odours. There was a cool faithfulness in the kiss
that revived my heart wonderfully. I felt that I feared the
dreadful Ash no more.

"What did the horrible Ash want with me?" I said.

"I am not quite sure, but I think he wants to bury you at the
foot of his tree. But he shall not touch you, my child."

"Are all the ash-trees as dreadful as he?"

"Oh, no. They are all disagreeable selfish creatures--(what
horrid men they will make, if it be true!)--but this one has a
hole in his heart that nobody knows of but one or two; and he is
always trying to fill it up, but he cannot. That must be what he
wanted you for. I wonder if he will ever be a man. If he is, I
hope they will kill him."

"How kind of you to save me from him!"

"I will take care that he shall not come near you again. But
there are some in the wood more like me, from whom, alas! I
cannot protect you. Only if you see any of them very beautiful,
try to walk round them."

"What then?"

"I cannot tell you more. But now I must tie some of my hair
about you, and then the Ash will not touch you. Here, cut some
off. You men have strange cutting things about you."

She shook her long hair loose over me, never moving her arms.

"I cannot cut your beautiful hair. It would be a shame."

"Not cut my hair! It will have grown long enough before any is
wanted again in this wild forest. Perhaps it may never be of any
use again--not till I am a woman." And she sighed.

As gently as I could, I cut with a knife a long tress of flowing,
dark hair, she hanging her beautiful head over me. When I had
finished, she shuddered and breathed deep, as one does when an
acute pain, steadfastly endured without sign of suffering, is at
length relaxed. She then took the hair and tied it round me,
singing a strange, sweet song, which I could not understand, but
which left in me a feeling like this--

"I saw thee ne'er before;
I see thee never more;
But love, and help, and pain, beautiful one,
Have made thee mine, till all my years are done."

I cannot put more of it into words. She closed her arms about me
again, and went on singing. The rain in the leaves, and a light
wind that had arisen, kept her song company. I was wrapt in a
trance of still delight. It told me the secret of the woods, and
the flowers, and the birds. At one time I felt as if I was
wandering in childhood through sunny spring forests, over carpets
of primroses, anemones, and little white starry things--I had
almost said creatures, and finding new wonderful flowers at every
turn. At another, I lay half dreaming in the hot summer noon,
with a book of old tales beside me, beneath a great beech; or, in
autumn, grew sad because I trod on the leaves that had sheltered
me, and received their last blessing in the sweet odours of
decay; or, in a winter evening, frozen still, looked up, as I
went home to a warm fireside, through the netted boughs and twigs
to the cold, snowy moon, with her opal zone around her. At last
I had fallen asleep; for I know nothing more that passed till I
found myself lying under a superb beech-tree, in the clear light
of the morning, just before sunrise. Around me was a girdle of
fresh beech-leaves. Alas! I brought nothing with me out of
Fairy Land, but memories--memories. The great boughs of the
beech hung drooping around me. At my head rose its smooth stem,
with its great sweeps of curving surface that swelled like
undeveloped limbs. The leaves and branches above kept on the
song which had sung me asleep; only now, to my mind, it sounded
like a farewell and a speedwell. I sat a long time, unwilling to
go; but my unfinished story urged me on. I must act and wander.
With the sun well risen, I rose, and put my arms as far as they
would reach around the beech-tree, and kissed it, and said good-
bye. A trembling went through the leaves; a few of the last
drops of the night's rain fell from off them at my feet; and as I
walked slowly away, I seemed to hear in a whisper once more the
words: "I may love him, I may love him; for he is a man, and I
am only a beech-tree."


"And she was smooth and full, as if one gush
Of life had washed her, or as if a sleep
Lay on her eyelid, easier to sweep
Than bee from daisy."
BEDDOIS' Pygmalion.

"Sche was as whyt as lylye yn May,
Or snow that sneweth yn wynterys day."
Romance of Sir Launfal.

I walked on, in the fresh morning air, as if new-born. The only
thing that damped my pleasure was a cloud of something between
sorrow and delight that crossed my mind with the frequently
returning thought of my last night's hostess. "But then,"
thought I, "if she is sorry, I could not help it; and she has all
the pleasures she ever had. Such a day as this is surely a joy
to her, as much at least as to me. And her life will perhaps be
the richer, for holding now within it the memory of what came,
but could not stay. And if ever she is a woman, who knows but we
may meet somewhere? there is plenty of room for meeting in the
universe." Comforting myself thus, yet with a vague compunction,
as if I ought not to have left her, I went on. There was little
to distinguish the woods to-day from those of my own land; except
that all the wild things, rabbits, birds, squirrels, mice, and
the numberless other inhabitants, were very tame; that is, they
did not run away from me, but gazed at me as I passed, frequently
coming nearer, as if to examine me more closely. Whether this
came from utter ignorance, or from familiarity with the human
appearance of beings who never hurt them, I could not tell. As I
stood once, looking up to the splendid flower of a parasite,
which hung from the branch of a tree over my head, a large white
rabbit cantered slowly up, put one of its little feet on one of
mine, and looked up at me with its red eyes, just as I had been
looking up at the flower above me. I stooped and stroked it; but
when I attempted to lift it, it banged the ground with its hind
feet and scampered off at a great rate, turning, however, to look
at me several times before I lost sight of it. Now and then,
too, a dim human figure would appear and disappear, at some
distance, amongst the trees, moving like a sleep-walker. But no
one ever came near me.

This day I found plenty of food in the forest--strange nuts and
fruits I had never seen before. I hesitated to eat them; but
argued that, if I could live on the air of Fairy Land, I could
live on its food also. I found my reasoning correct, and the
result was better than I had hoped; for it not only satisfied my
hunger, but operated in such a way upon my senses that I was
brought into far more complete relationship with the things
around me. The human forms appeared much more dense and defined;
more tangibly visible, if I may say so. I seemed to know better
which direction to choose when any doubt arose. I began to feel
in some degree what the birds meant in their songs, though I
could not express it in words, any more than you can some
landscapes. At times, to my surprise, I found myself listening
attentively, and as if it were no unusual thing with me, to a
conversation between two squirrels or monkeys. The subjects were
not very interesting, except as associated with the individual
life and necessities of the little creatures: where the best nuts
were to be found in the neighbourhood, and who could crack them
best, or who had most laid up for the winter, and such like; only
they never said where the store was. There was no great
difference in kind between their talk and our ordinary human
conversation. Some of the creatures I never heard speak at all,
and believe they never do so, except under the impulse of some
great excitement. The mice talked; but the hedgehogs seemed very
phlegmatic; and though I met a couple of moles above ground
several times, they never said a word to each other in my
hearing. There were no wild beasts in the forest; at least, I
did not see one larger than a wild cat. There were plenty of
snakes, however, and I do not think they were all harmless; but
none ever bit me.

Soon after mid-day I arrived at a bare rocky hill, of no great
size, but very steep; and having no trees--scarcely even a bush--
upon it, entirely exposed to the heat of the sun. Over this my
way seemed to lie, and I immediately began the ascent. On
reaching the top, hot and weary, I looked around me, and saw that
the forest still stretched as far as the sight could reach on
every side of me. I observed that the trees, in the direction in
which I was about to descend, did not come so near the foot of
the hill as on the other side, and was especially regretting the
unexpected postponement of shelter, because this side of the hill
seemed more difficult to descend than the other had been to
climb, when my eye caught the appearance of a natural path,
winding down through broken rocks and along the course of a tiny
stream, which I hoped would lead me more easily to the foot. I
tried it, and found the descent not at all laborious;
nevertheless, when I reached the bottom, I was very tired and
exhausted with the heat. But just where the path seemed to end,
rose a great rock, quite overgrown with shrubs and creeping
plants, some of them in full and splendid blossom: these almost
concealed an opening in the rock, into which the path appeared to
lead. I entered, thirsting for the shade which it promised.
What was my delight to find a rocky cell, all the angles rounded
away with rich moss, and every ledge and projection crowded with
lovely ferns, the variety of whose forms, and groupings, and
shades wrought in me like a poem; for such a harmony could not
exist, except they all consented to some one end! A little well
of the clearest water filled a mossy hollow in one corner. I
drank, and felt as if I knew what the elixir of life must be;
then threw myself on a mossy mound that lay like a couch along
the inner end. Here I lay in a delicious reverie for some time;
during which all lovely forms, and colours, and sounds seemed to
use my brain as a common hall, where they could come and go,
unbidden and unexcused. I had never imagined that such capacity
for simple happiness lay in me, as was now awakened by this
assembly of forms and spiritual sensations, which yet were far
too vague to admit of being translated into any shape common to
my own and another mind. I had lain for an hour, I should
suppose, though it may have been far longer, when, the harmonious
tumult in my mind having somewhat relaxed, I became aware that my
eyes were fixed on a strange, time-worn bas-relief on the rock
opposite to me. This, after some pondering, I concluded to
represent Pygmalion, as he awaited the quickening of his statue.
The sculptor sat more rigid than the figure to which his eyes
were turned. That seemed about to step from its pedestal and
embrace the man, who waited rather than expected.

"A lovely story," I said to myself. "This cave, now, with the
bushes cut away from the entrance to let the light in, might be
such a place as he would choose, withdrawn from the notice of
men, to set up his block of marble, and mould into a visible body
the thought already clothed with form in the unseen hall of the
sculptor's brain. And, indeed, if I mistake not," I said,
starting up, as a sudden ray of light arrived at that moment
through a crevice in the roof, and lighted up a small portion of
the rock, bare of vegetation, "this very rock is marble, white
enough and delicate enough for any statue, even if destined to
become an ideal woman in the arms of the sculptor."

I took my knife and removed the moss from a part of the block on
which I had been lying; when, to my surprise, I found it more
like alabaster than ordinary marble, and soft to the edge of the
knife. In fact, it was alabaster. By an inexplicable, though by
no means unusual kind of impulse, I went on removing the moss
from the surface of the stone; and soon saw that it was polished,
or at least smooth, throughout. I continued my labour; and after
clearing a space of about a couple of square feet, I observed
what caused me to prosecute the work with more interest and care
than before. For the ray of sunlight had now reached the spot I
had cleared, and under its lustre the alabaster revealed its
usual slight transparency when polished, except where my knife
had scratched the surface; and I observed that the transparency
seemed to have a definite limit, and to end upon an opaque body
like the more solid, white marble. I was careful to scratch no
more. And first, a vague anticipation gave way to a startling
sense of possibility; then, as I proceeded, one revelation after
another produced the entrancing conviction, that under the crust
of alabaster lay a dimly visible form in marble, but whether of
man or woman I could not yet tell. I worked on as rapidly as the
necessary care would permit; and when I had uncovered the whole
mass, and rising from my knees, had retreated a little way, so
that the effect of the whole might fall on me, I saw before me
with sufficient plainness--though at the same time with
considerable indistinctness, arising from the limited amount of
light the place admitted, as well as from the nature of the
object itself--a block of pure alabaster enclosing the form,
apparently in marble, of a reposing woman. She lay on one side,
with her hand under her cheek, and her face towards me; but her
hair had fallen partly over her face, so that I could not see the
expression of the whole. What I did see appeared to me perfectly
lovely; more near the face that had been born with me in my soul,
than anything I had seen before in nature or art. The actual
outlines of the rest of the form were so indistinct, that the
more than semi-opacity of the alabaster seemed insufficient to
account for the fact; and I conjectured that a light robe added
its obscurity. Numberless histories passed through my mind of
change of substance from enchantment and other causes, and of
imprisonments such as this before me. I thought of the Prince of
the Enchanted City, half marble and half a man; of Ariel; of
Niobe; of the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood; of the bleeding trees;
and many other histories. Even my adventure of the preceding
evening with the lady of the beech-tree contributed to arouse the
wild hope, that by some means life might be given to this form
also, and that, breaking from her alabaster tomb, she might
glorify my eyes with her presence. "For," I argued, "who can
tell but this cave may be the home of Marble, and this, essential
Marble--that spirit of marble which, present throughout, makes it
capable of being moulded into any form? Then if she should
awake! But how to awake her? A kiss awoke the Sleeping Beauty!
a kiss cannot reach her through the incrusting alabaster." I
kneeled, however, and kissed the pale coffin; but she slept on.
I bethought me of Orpheus, and the following stones--that trees
should follow his music seemed nothing surprising now. Might not
a song awake this form, that the glory of motion might for a time
displace the loveliness of rest? Sweet sounds can go where
kisses may not enter. I sat and thought. Now, although always
delighting in music, I had never been gifted with the power of
song, until I entered the fairy forest. I had a voice, and I had
a true sense of sound; but when I tried to sing, the one would
not content the other, and so I remained silent. This morning,
however, I had found myself, ere I was aware, rejoicing in a
song; but whether it was before or after I had eaten of the
fruits of the forest, I could not satisfy myself. I concluded it
was after, however; and that the increased impulse to sing I now
felt, was in part owing to having drunk of the little well, which
shone like a brilliant eye in a corner of the cave. It saw down
on the ground by the "antenatal tomb," leaned upon it with my
face towards the head of the figure within, and sang--the words
and tones coming together, and inseparably connected, as if word
and tone formed one thing; or, as if each word could be uttered
only in that tone, and was incapable of distinction from it,
except in idea, by an acute analysis. I sang something like
this: but the words are only a dull representation of a state
whose very elevation precluded the possibility of remembrance;
and in which I presume the words really employed were as far
above these, as that state transcended this wherein I recall it:

"Marble woman, vainly sleeping
In the very death of dreams!
Wilt thou--slumber from thee sweeping,
All but what with vision teems--
Hear my voice come through the golden
Mist of memory and hope;
And with shadowy smile embolden
Me with primal Death to cope?

"Thee the sculptors all pursuing,
Have embodied but their own;
Round their visions, form enduring,
Marble vestments thou hast thrown;
But thyself, in silence winding,
Thou hast kept eternally;
Thee they found not, many finding--
I have found thee: wake for me."

As I sang, I looked earnestly at the face so vaguely revealed
before me. I fancied, yet believed it to be but fancy, that
through the dim veil of the alabaster, I saw a motion of the head
as if caused by a sinking sigh. I gazed more earnestly, and
concluded that it was but fancy. Neverthless I could not help
singing again--

"Rest is now filled full of beauty,
And can give thee up, I ween;
Come thou forth, for other duty
Motion pineth for her queen.

"Or, if needing years to wake thee
From thy slumbrous solitudes,
Come, sleep-walking, and betake thee
To the friendly, sleeping woods.

Sweeter dreams are in the forest,
Round thee storms would never rave;
And when need of rest is sorest,
Glide thou then into thy cave.

"Or, if still thou choosest rather
Marble, be its spell on me;
Let thy slumber round me gather,
Let another dream with thee!"

Again I paused, and gazed through the stony shroud, as if, by
very force of penetrative sight, I would clear every lineament of
the lovely face. And now I thought the hand that had lain under
the cheek, had slipped a little downward. But then I could not
be sure that I had at first observed its position accurately. So
I sang again; for the longing had grown into a passionate need of
seeing her alive--

"Or art thou Death, O woman? for since I
Have set me singing by thy side,
Life hath forsook the upper sky,
And all the outer world hath died.

"Yea, I am dead; for thou hast drawn
My life all downward unto thee.
Dead moon of love! let twilight dawn:
Awake! and let the darkness flee.

"Cold lady of the lovely stone!
Awake! or I shall perish here;
And thou be never more alone,
My form and I for ages near.

"But words are vain; reject them all--
They utter but a feeble part:
Hear thou the depths from which they call,
The voiceless longing of my heart."

There arose a slightly crashing sound. Like a sudden apparition
that comes and is gone, a white form, veiled in a light robe of
whiteness, burst upwards from the stone, stood, glided forth, and
gleamed away towards the woods. For I followed to the mouth of
the cave, as soon as the amazement and concentration of delight
permitted the nerves of motion again to act; and saw the white
form amidst the trees, as it crossed a little glade on the edge
of the forest where the sunlight fell full, seeming to gather
with intenser radiance on the one object that floated rather than
flitted through its lake of beams. I gazed after her in a kind
of despair; found, freed, lost! It seemed useless to follow, yet
follow I must. I marked the direction she took; and without once
looking round to the forsaken cave, I hastened towards the


"Ah, let a man beware, when his wishes, fulfilled, rain down
upon him, and his happiness is unbounded."
"Thy red lips, like worms,
Travel over my cheek."

But as I crossed the space between the foot of the hill and the
forest, a vision of another kind delayed my steps. Through an
opening to the westward flowed, like a stream, the rays of the
setting sun, and overflowed with a ruddy splendour the open space
where I was. And riding as it were down this stream towards me,
came a horseman in what appeared red armour. From frontlet to
tail, the horse likewise shone red in the sunset. I felt as if I
must have seen the knight before; but as he drew near, I could
recall no feature of his countenance. Ere he came up to me,
however, I remembered the legend of Sir Percival in the rusty
armour, which I had left unfinished in the old book in the
cottage: it was of Sir Percival that he reminded me. And no
wonder; for when he came close up to me, I saw that, from crest
to heel, the whole surface of his armour was covered with a light
rust. The golden spurs shone, but the iron greaves glowed in the
sunlight. The MORNING STAR, which hung from his wrist, glittered
and glowed with its silver and bronze. His whole appearance was
terrible; but his face did not answer to this appearance. It was
sad, even to gloominess; and something of shame seemed to cover
it. Yet it was noble and high, though thus beclouded; and the
form looked lofty, although the head drooped, and the whole frame
was bowed as with an inward grief. The horse seemed to share in
his master's dejection, and walked spiritless and slow. I
noticed, too, that the white plume on his helmet was discoloured
and drooping. "He has fallen in a joust with spears," I said to
myself; "yet it becomes not a noble knight to be conquered in
spirit because his body hath fallen." He appeared not to observe
me, for he was riding past without looking up, and started into a
warlike attitude the moment the first sound of my voice reached
him. Then a flush, as of shame, covered all of his face that the
lifted beaver disclosed. He returned my greeting with distant
courtesy, and passed on. But suddenly, he reined up, sat a
moment still, and then turning his horse, rode back to where I
stood looking after him.

"I am ashamed," he said, "to appear a knight, and in such a
guise; but it behoves me to tell you to take warning from me,
lest the same evil, in his kind, overtake the singer that has
befallen the knight. Hast thou ever read the story of Sir
Percival and the"--(here he shuddered, that his armour rang)--
"Maiden of the Alder-tree?"

"In part, I have," said I; "for yesterday, at the entrance of
this forest, I found in a cottage the volume wherein it is
"Then take heed," he rejoined; "for, see my armour--I put it off;
and as it befell to him, so has it befallen to me. I that was
proud am humble now. Yet is she terribly beautiful--beware.
Never," he added, raising his head, "shall this armour be
furbished, but by the blows of knightly encounter, until the last
speck has disappeared from every spot where the battle-axe and
sword of evil-doers, or noble foes, might fall; when I shall
again lift my head, and say to my squire, `Do thy duty once more,
and make this armour shine.'"

Before I could inquire further, he had struck spurs into his
horse and galloped away, shrouded from my voice in the noise of
his armour. For I called after him, anxious to know more about
this fearful enchantress; but in vain--he heard me not. "Yet," I
said to myself, "I have now been often warned; surely I shall be
well on my guard; and I am fully resolved I shall not be ensnared
by any beauty, however beautiful. Doubtless, some one man may
escape, and I shall be he." So I went on into the wood, still
hoping to find, in some one of its mysterious recesses, my lost
lady of the marble. The sunny afternoon died into the loveliest
twilight. Great bats began to flit about with their own
noiseless flight, seemingly purposeless, because its objects are
unseen. The monotonous music of the owl issued from all
unexpected quarters in the half-darkness around me. The glow-
worm was alight here and there, burning out into the great
universe. The night-hawk heightened all the harmony and
stillness with his oft-recurring, discordant jar. Numberless
unknown sounds came out of the unknown dusk; but all were of
twilight-kind, oppressing the heart as with a condensed
atmosphere of dreamy undefined love and longing. The odours of
night arose, and bathed me in that luxurious mournfulness
peculiar to them, as if the plants whence they floated had been
watered with bygone tears. Earth drew me towards her bosom; I
felt as if I could fall down and kiss her. I forgot I was in
Fairy Land, and seemed to be walking in a perfect night of our
own old nursing earth. Great stems rose about me, uplifting a
thick multitudinous roof above me of branches, and twigs, and
leaves--the bird and insect world uplifted over mine, with its
own landscapes, its own thickets, and paths, and glades, and
dwellings; its own bird-ways and insect-delights. Great boughs
crossed my path; great roots based the tree-columns, and mightily
clasped the earth, strong to lift and strong to uphold. It
seemed an old, old forest, perfect in forest ways and pleasures.
And when, in the midst of this ecstacy, I remembered that under
some close canopy of leaves, by some giant stem, or in some mossy
cave, or beside some leafy well, sat the lady of the marble, whom
my songs had called forth into the outer world, waiting (might it
not be?) to meet and thank her deliverer in a twilight which
would veil her confusion, the whole night became one dream-realm
of joy, the central form of which was everywhere present,
although unbeheld. Then, remembering how my songs seemed to have
called her from the marble, piercing through the pearly shroud of
alabaster--"Why," thought I, "should not my voice reach her now,
through the ebon night that inwraps her." My voice burst into
song so spontaneously that it seemed involuntarily.

"Not a sound
But, echoing in me,
Vibrates all around
With a blind delight,
Till it breaks on Thee,
Queen of Night!

Every tree,
O'ershadowing with gloom,
Seems to cover thee
Secret, dark, love-still'd,
In a holy room

"Let no moon
Creep up the heaven to-night;
I in darksome noon
Walking hopefully,
Seek my shrouded light--
Grope for thee!

"Darker grow
The borders of the dark!
Through the branches glow,
From the roof above,
Star and diamond-sparks
Light for love."

Scarcely had the last sounds floated away from the hearing of my
own ears, when I heard instead a low delicious laugh near me. It
was not the laugh of one who would not be heard, but the laugh of
one who has just received something long and patiently desired--a
laugh that ends in a low musical moan. I started, and, turning
sideways, saw a dim white figure seated beside an intertwining
thicket of smaller trees and underwood.

"It is my white lady!" I said, and flung myself on the ground
beside her; striving, through the gathering darkness, to get a
glimpse of the form which had broken its marble prison at my

"It is your white lady!" said the sweetest voice, in reply,
sending a thrill of speechless delight through a heart which all
the love-charms of the preceding day and evening had been
tempering for this culminating hour. Yet, if I would have
confessed it, there was something either in the sound of the
voice, although it seemed sweetness itself, or else in this
yielding which awaited no gradation of gentle approaches, that
did not vibrate harmoniously with the beat of my inward music.
And likewise, when, taking her hand in mine, I drew closer to
her, looking for the beauty of her face, which, indeed, I found
too plenteously, a cold shiver ran through me; but "it is the
marble," I said to myself, and heeded it not.

She withdrew her hand from mine, and after that would scarce
allow me to touch her. It seemed strange, after the fulness of
her first greeting, that she could not trust me to come close to
her. Though her words were those of a lover, she kept herself
withdrawn as if a mile of space interposed between us.

"Why did you run away from me when you woke in the cave?" I said.

"Did I?" she returned. "That was very unkind of me; but I did
not know better."

"I wish I could see you. The night is very dark."

"So it is. Come to my grotto. There is light there."

"Have you another cave, then?"

"Come and see."

But she did not move until I rose first, and then she was on her
feet before I could offer my hand to help her. She came close to
my side, and conducted me through the wood. But once or twice,
when, involuntarily almost, I was about to put my arm around her
as we walked on through the warm gloom, she sprang away several
paces, always keeping her face full towards me, and then stood
looking at me, slightly stooping, in the attitude of one who
fears some half-seen enemy. It was too dark to discern the
expression of her face. Then she would return and walk close
beside me again, as if nothing had happened. I thought this
strange; but, besides that I had almost, as I said before, given
up the attempt to account for appearances in Fairy Land, I judged
that it would be very unfair to expect from one who had slept so
long and had been so suddenly awakened, a behaviour correspondent
to what I might unreflectingly look for. I knew not what she
might have been dreaming about. Besides, it was possible that,
while her words were free, her sense of touch might be
exquisitely delicate.

At length, after walking a long way in the woods, we arrived at
another thicket, through the intertexture of which was glimmering
a pale rosy light.

"Push aside the branches," she said, "and make room for us to

I did as she told me.

"Go in," she said; "I will follow you."

I did as she desired, and found myself in a little cave, not very
unlike the marble cave. It was festooned and draperied with all
kinds of green that cling to shady rocks. In the furthest
corner, half- hidden in leaves, through which it glowed, mingling
lovely shadows between them, burned a bright rosy flame on a
little earthen lamp. The lady glided round by the wall from
behind me, still keeping her face towards me, and seated herself
in the furthest corner, with her back to the lamp, which she hid
completely from my view. I then saw indeed a form of perfect
loveliness before me. Almost it seemed as if the light of the
rose-lamp shone through her (for it could not be reflected from
her); such a delicate shade of pink seemed to shadow what in
itself must be a marbly whiteness of hue. I discovered
afterwards, however, that there was one thing in it I did not
like; which was, that the white part of the eye was tinged with
the same slight roseate hue as the rest of the form. It is
strange that I cannot recall her features; but they, as well as
her somewhat girlish figure, left on me simply and only the
impression of intense loveliness. I lay down at her feet, and
gazed up into her face as I lay. She began, and told me a
strange tale, which, likewise, I cannot recollect; but which, at
every turn and every pause, somehow or other fixed my eyes and
thoughts upon her extreme beauty; seeming always to culminate in
something that had a relation, revealed or hidden, but always
operative, with her own loveliness. I lay entranced. It was a
tale which brings back a feeling as of snows and tempests;
torrents and water-sprites; lovers parted for long, and meeting
at last; with a gorgeous summer night to close up the whole. I
listened till she and I were blended with the tale; till she and
I were the whole history. And we had met at last in this same
cave of greenery, while the summer night hung round us heavy with
love, and the odours that crept through the silence from the
sleeping woods were the only signs of an outer world that invaded
our solitude. What followed I cannot clearly remember. The
succeeding horror almost obliterated it. I woke as a grey dawn
stole into the cave. The damsel had disappeared; but in the
shrubbery, at the mouth of the cave, stood a strange horrible
object. It looked like an open coffin set up on one end; only
that the part for the head and neck was defined from the
shoulder-part. In fact, it was a rough representation of the
human frame, only hollow, as if made of decaying bark torn from a

It had arms, which were only slightly seamed, down from the
shoulder- blade by the elbow, as if the bark had healed again
from the cut of a knife. But the arms moved, and the hand and
the fingers were tearing asunder a long silky tress of hair. The
thing turned round--it had for a face and front those of my
enchantress, but now of a pale greenish hue in the light of the
morning, and with dead lustreless eyes. In the horror of the
moment, another fear invaded me. I put my hand to my waist, and
found indeed that my girdle of beech-leaves was gone. Hair again
in her hands, she was tearing it fiercely. Once more, as she
turned, she laughed a low laugh, but now full of scorn and
derision; and then she said, as if to a companion with whom she
had been talking while I slept, "There he is; you can take him
now." I lay still, petrified with dismay and fear; for I now saw
another figure beside her, which, although vague and indistinct,
I yet recognised but too well. It was the Ash-tree. My beauty
was the Maid of the Alder! and she was giving me, spoiled of my
only availing defence, into the hands of bent his Gorgon-head,
and entered the cave. I could not stir. He drew near me. His
ghoul-eyes and his ghastly face fascinated me. He came stooping,
with the hideous hand outstretched, like a beast of prey. I had
given myself up to a death of unfathomable horror, when,
suddenly, and just as he was on the point of seizing me, the
dull, heavy blow of an axe echoed through the wood, followed by
others in quick repetition. The Ash shuddered and groaned,
withdrew the outstretched hand, retreated backwards to the mouth
of the cave, then turned and disappeared amongst the trees. The
other walking Death looked at me once, with a careless dislike on
her beautifully moulded features; then, heedless any more to
conceal her hollow deformity, turned her frightful back and
likewise vanished amid the green obscurity without. I lay and
wept. The Maid of the Alder-tree had befooled me--nearly slain
me--in spite of all the warnings I had received from those who
knew my danger.


"Fight on, my men, Sir Andrew sayes,
A little Ime hurt, but yett not slaine;
He but lye downe and bleede awhile,
And then Ile rise and fight againe."
Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton.

But I could not remain where I was any longer, though the
daylight was hateful to me, and the thought of the great,
innocent, bold sunrise unendurable. Here there was no well to
cool my face, smarting with the bitterness of my own tears. Nor
would I have washed in the well of that grotto, had it flowed
clear as the rivers of Paradise. I rose, and feebly left the
sepulchral cave. I took my way I knew not whither, but still
towards the sunrise. The birds were singing; but not for me.
All the creatures spoke a language of their own, with which I had
nothing to do, and to which I cared not to find the key any more.

I walked listlessly along. What distressed me most--more even
than my own folly--was the perplexing question, How can beauty
and ugliness dwell so near? Even with her altered complexion and
her face of dislike; disenchanted of the belief that clung around
her; known for a living, walking sepulchre, faithless, deluding,
traitorous; I felt notwithstanding all this, that she was
beautiful. Upon this I pondered with undiminished perplexity,
though not without some gain. Then I began to make surmises as
to the mode of my deliverance; and concluded that some hero,
wandering in search of adventure, had heard how the forest was
infested; and, knowing it was useless to attack the evil thing in
person, had assailed with his battle-axe the body in which he
dwelt, and on which he was dependent for his power of mischief in
the wood. "Very likely," I thought, "the repentant-knight, who
warned me of the evil which has befallen me, was busy retrieving
his lost honour, while I was sinking into the same sorrow with
himself; and, hearing of the dangerous and mysterious being,
arrived at his tree in time to save me from being dragged to its
roots, and buried like carrion, to nourish him for yet deeper
insatiableness." I found afterwards that my conjecture was
correct. I wondered how he had fared when his blows recalled the
Ash himself, and that too I learned afterwards.

I walked on the whole day, with intervals of rest, but without
food; for I could not have eaten, had any been offered me; till,
in the afternoon, I seemed to approach the outskirts of the
forest, and at length arrived at a farm-house. An unspeakable
joy arose in my heart at beholding an abode of human beings once
more, and I hastened up to the door, and knocked. A
kind-looking, matronly woman, still handsome, made her
appearance; who, as soon as she saw me, said kindly, "Ah, my poor
boy, you have come from the wood! Were you in it last night?"

I should have ill endured, the day before, to be called BOY; but
now the motherly kindness of the word went to my heart; and, like
a boy indeed, I burst into tears. She soothed me right gently;
and, leading me into a room, made me lie down on a settle, while
she went to find me some refreshment. She soon returned with
food, but I could not eat. She almost compelled me to swallow
some wine, when I revived sufficiently to be able to answer some
of her questions. I told her the whole story.

"It is just as I feared," she said; "but you are now for the
night beyond the reach of any of these dreadful creatures. It is
no wonder they could delude a child like you. But I must beg
you, when my husband comes in, not to say a word about these
things; for he thinks me even half crazy for believing anything
of the sort. But I must believe my senses, as he cannot believe
beyond his, which give him no intimations of this kind. I think
he could spend the whole of Midsummer-eve in the wood and come
back with the report that he saw nothing worse than himself.
Indeed, good man, he would hardly find anything better than
himself, if he had seven more senses given him."

"But tell me how it is that she could be so beautiful without any
heart at all--without any place even for a heart to live in."

"I cannot quite tell," she said; "but I am sure she would not
look so beautiful if she did not take means to make herself look
more beautiful than she is. And then, you know, you began by
being in love with her before you saw her beauty, mistaking her
for the lady of the marble--another kind altogether, I should
think. But the chief thing that makes her beautiful is this:
that, although she loves no man, she loves the love of any man;
and when she finds one in her power, her desire to bewitch him
and gain his love (not for the sake of his love either, but that
she may be conscious anew of her own beauty, through the
admiration he manifests), makes her very lovely--with a self-
destructive beauty, though; for it is that which is constantly
wearing her away within, till, at last, the decay will reach her
face, and her whole front, when all the lovely mask of nothing
will fall to pieces, and she be vanished for ever. So a wise
man, whom she met in the wood some years ago, and who, I think,
for all his wisdom, fared no better than you, told me, when, like
you, he spent the next night here, and recounted to me his

I thanked her very warmly for her solution, though it was but
partial; wondering much that in her, as in woman I met on my
first entering the forest, there should be such superiority to
her apparent condition. Here she left me to take some rest;

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