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Daphne, an Autumn Pastoral by Margaret Sherwood

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Slow, full, and sweet the words came, beating like music on the
girl's heart. All the sorrow of earth seemed gathered up in the
undertones, all its hunger and thirst for life and love: in it
rang the voice of a will stronger than death and strong as love.

The sheep lifted their heads and looked on anxiously, as if for a
moment even the heart of a beast were touched by human sorrow.
From over the highest ridge of this green amphitheatre San Pietro
looked down with the air of one who had nothing more to learn of
woe. Apollo stood in the centre of the stage, taking one voice,
then another: now the angry tone of the tyrant, Creon, now the
wail of the chorus, hurt but undecided, then breaking into the
unspeakable sweetness and firmness of Antigone's tones. The
sheep went back to their nibbling; San Pietro trotted away with
his jingling bells, but Daphne sat with her face leaning on her
hands, and slow tears trickling over her fingers.

The despairing lover's cry broke in on Antigone's sorrow; Haemon,
"bitter for the baffled hope of his marriage," pleaded with his
father Creon for the life of his beloved. Into his arguments for
mercy and justice crept that cry of the music on the hills that
had sounded through lonely hours in Daphne's ears. It was the
old call of passion, pleading, imperious, irresistible, and the
girl on Caesar's seat answered to it as harp strings answer to
the master's hand. The wail of Antigone seemed to come from the
depths of her own being:--

"Bear me witness, in what sort, unwept of friends, and by what
laws I pass to the rock-closed prison of my strange tomb, ah me
unhappy!... No bridal bed, no bridal song hath been mine, no joy
of marriage."

The sun hung low above the encircling hills when the lover's last
cry sounded in the green theatre, drowning grief in triumph as he
chose death with his beloved before all other good. Then there
was silence, while the round, golden sun seemed resting in a
red-gold haze on the hilltop, and Daphne, sitting with closed
eyes, felt the touch of two hands upon her own.

"Did you understand?" asked a voice that broke in its tenderness.

She nodded, with eyes still closed, for she dared not trust them
open. He bent and kissed her hands, where the tears had fallen
on them, then, turning, called his sheep. Three minutes later
there was no trace of him or of them: they had vanished as if by
magic, leaving silence and shadow. The girl climbed the hill
toward home on San Pietro's back, shaken, awed, afraid.


If Bertuccio had but shown any signs of having seen her companion
of yesterday, Daphne's bewilderment would have been less; but to
keep meeting a being who claimed to belong to another world, who
came and went, invisible, it would seem, when he chose, to other
eyes except her own, might well rouse strange thoughts in the
mind of a girl cut off from her old life in the world of
commonplace events. To be sure, the shepherd Antoli had seen
him, but had spoken of him voluntarily as a mysterious creature,
one of the blessed saints come down to aid the sick. The beggar
woman had seen him, but had fallen prostrate at his feet as in
awe of supernatural presence. When the wandering god had talked
across the hedge the eyes of Giacomo and Assunta had apparently
been holden; and now Bertuccio, whose ears were keen, and whose
eyes, in their lazy Italian fashion, saw more then they ever
seemed to, Bertuccio had been all the afternoon within a stone's
throw of the place where the god had played to her, and Bertuccio
gave no sign of having seen a man. She eyed him questioningly as
they started out the next morning on their way to the ruins of
some famous baths on the mountain facing them.

There was keenness in the autumn air that morning, but the green
slopes far and near bore no trace of flaming color or of decay,
as in fall at home; it was rather like a glimpse of some cool,
eternal spring. A stream of water trickled down under thick
grass at the side of the road, and violets grew there.

"San Pietro!" said Daphne, with a little tug at the bridle. The
long ears were jerked hastily back to hear what was to come. "I
know you disapprove of me, for you saw it all."

The ears kept that position in which any one who has ever loved a
donkey recognizes scathing criticism. Daphne fingered one of
them with her free hand.

"It is only on your back that I feel any strength of mind," she
added. "When I am by myself something seems sweeping me away, as
the tides sweep driftwood out to sea; but here, resolution crawls
up through my body. We must be a new kind of centaur, San

Suddenly her face went down between his ears.

"But if you and I united do drive him away, what shall we

"Signorina!" called Bertuccio, running up behind them. "Look!
The olives pick themselves."

At a turn in the road the view had opened. There, in a great
orchard on the side of the hill, the peasants were gathering
olives before the coming of the frost. There were scores of
pickers wearing great gay-colored aprons in which they placed the
olives as they gathered them from the trees. Ladders leaned
against knotty tree trunks; baskets filled with the green fruit
stood on the ground. Ladder and basket suggested the apple
orchards of her native land, but the motley colors of kerchief
and apron, yellow, magenta, turquoise, and green, and the gray of
the eternal olive trees with the deep blue of the sky behind
them, recalled her to the enchanted country where she was fast
losing the landmarks of home.

"Signorina Daphne," said Bertuccio, speaking slowly as to a
child, "did you ever hear them tell of the maiden on the hills up
here who was carried away by a god?"

Daphne turned swiftly and tried to read his face. It was no less
expressionless than usual.

"No," she answered. "Tell me. I am fond of stories."

They were climbing the winding road again, leaving the olive
pickers behind. Bertuccio walked near, holding the donkey's tail
to steady his steps.

"It was long ago, ages and ages. Her father had the care of an
olive orchard that was old, older than our Lord," said Bertuccio,
devoutly crossing himself. "There was one tree in it that was
enormously big, as large as this,--see the measure of my arms! It
was open and hollow, but growing as olives will when there is
every reason why they should be dead. One night the family were
eating their polenta--has the Signorina tasted our polenta ? It
makes itself from chestnuts, and it is very good. I must speak
to my mother to offer some to the Signorina. Well, the door
opened without any knocking, and a stranger stood there: he was
young, and beyond humanity, beautiful."

Bertuccio paused; the girl felt slow red climbing to her cheek.
She dared not look behind, yet she would have given half her
possessions to see the expression of his face. Leaning forward,
she played with the red tassels at San Pietro's ears.

"Go on! go on!" she commanded. "Avanti!"

San Pietro thought that the words were meant for him, and indeed
they were more appropriate here for donkey than for man.

"He sat with them and shared their polenta," continued Bertuccio,
walking more rapidly to keep up with San Pietro's quickened step.
"And he made them all afraid. It was not that he had any
terrible look, or that he did anything strange, only, each
glance, each motion told that he was more than merely man. And
he looked at the maiden with eyes of love, and she at him," said
Bertuccio, lacking art to keep his hearer in suspense. "She too
was beautiful, as beautiful, perhaps, as the Signorina,"
continued the story-teller.

Daphne looked at him sharply: did he mean any further
comparison? There were hot waves now on neck and face, and her
heart was beating furiously.

"He came often, and he always met the maiden by the hollow tree:
it was large enough for them to stand inside. And her father and
mother were troubled, for they knew he was a god, not one of our
faith, Signorina, but one of the older gods who lived here before
the coming of our Lord. One day as he stood there by the tree
and was kissing the maiden on her mouth, her father came, very
angry, and scolded her, and defied the god, telling him to go
away and never show his face there again. And then, he never
knew how it happened, for the stranger did not touch him, but he
fell stunned to the ground, with a queer flash of light in his
eyes. When he woke, the stars were shining over him, and he
crawled home. But the maiden was gone, and they never saw her
any more, Signorina. Whether it was for good or for ill, she had
been carried away by the god. People think that they disappeared
inside the tree, for it closed up that night, and it never opened
again. Sometimes they thought they heard voices coming from it,
and once or twice, cries and sobs of a woman. Maybe she is
imprisoned there and cannot get out: it would be a terrible
fate, would it not, Signorina? Me, I think it is better to fight
shy of the heathen gods."

Bertuccio's white teeth showed in a broad smile, but no scrutiny
on Daphne's part could tell her whether he had told his story for
pleasure merely, or for warning. She rode on in silence,
realizing, as she had not realized before, how far this peasant
stock reached back into the elder days of the ancient world.

"Do you think that your story is true, Bertuccio?" she asked, as
they came in sight of the grass-grown mounds of the buried
watering-place toward which their steps were bent.

"Ma che!" answered Bertuccio, shrugging his shoulders, and
snapping his fingers meaningly. "So much is true that one does
not see, and one cannot believe all that one does see."

Daphne started. What HAD he seen?

"Besides," added Bertuccio, "there is proof of this. My father's
father saw the olive tree, and it was quite closed."


Over the shallow tufa basin of the great fountain on the hill
Daphne stood gazing into the water. She had sought the deep
shadow of the ilex trees, for the afternoon was warm, an almost
angry summer heat having followed yesterday's coolness. Her
yellow gown gleamed like light against the dull brown of the
stone and the dark moss-touched trunks of the trees. Whether she
was looking at the tufts of fern and of grass that grew in the
wet basin, or whether she was studying her own beauty reflected
there, no one could tell, not even Apollo, who had been watching
her for some time.

Into his eyes as he looked leaped a light like the flame of the
sunshine beyond the shadows on the hill; swiftly he stepped
forward and kissed the girl's shoulder where the thin yellow
stuff of her dress showed the outward curve to the arm. She
turned and faced him, without a word. There was no need of
speech: anger battled with unconfessed joy in her changing face.

"How dare you?" she said presently, when she had won her lips to
curves of scorn. "The manners of the gods seem strange to

"I love you," he answered simply.

Then there was no sound save that of the water, dropping over the
edge of the great basin to the soft grass beneath.

"Can't you forgive me?" he asked humbly. "I am profoundly sorry;
only, my temptation was superhuman."

"I had thought that you were that, too," said the girl in a

"There is no excuse, I know; there is only a reason. I love you,
little girl. I love your questioning eyes, and your firm mouth,
and your smooth brown hair"--

"Stop!" begged Daphne, putting out her hands. "You must not say
such things to me, for I am not free to hear them. I must go
away," and she turned toward home. But he grasped one of the
outstretched hands and drew her to the stone bench near the
fountain, and then seated himself near her side.

"Now tell me what you mean," he said quietly.

"I mean," she answered, with her eyes cast down, "that two years
ago I promised to love some one else. I must not even hear what
you are trying to say to me."

"I think, Miss Willis," he said gently, " that you should have
told me this before."

"How could I?" begged the girl. "When could I have done it? Why
should I?"

"I do not know," he answered wearily; "only, perhaps it might
have spared me some shade of human anguish."

"Human?" asked Daphne, almost smiling.

"No, no, no," he interrupted, not hearing her. "It would not
have done any good, for I have loved you from the first minute
when l saw your blue drapery flutter in your flight from me.
Some deeper sense than mortals have told me that every footstep
was falling on my sleeping heart and waking it to life. You were
not running away; in some divine sense you were coming toward me.
Daphne, Daphne, I cannot let you go!"

The look in the girl's startled eyes was his only answer. By the
side of this sun-browned face, in its beauty and its power, rose
before her a vision of Eustace Denton, pale, full-lipped, with an
ardor for nothingness in his remote blue eyes. How could she
have known, in those old days before her revelation came, that
faces like this were on the earth: how could she have dreamed
that glory of life like this was possible?

In the great strain of the moment they both grew calm and Daphne
told him her story, as much of it as she thought it wise for him
to know. Her later sense of misgiving, the breaking of the
engagement, the penitence that had led to a renewal of the bonds,
she concealed from him; but he learned of the days of study and
of quiet work in the shaded corners of her father's library, and
of those gayer days and evenings when the figure of the young
ascetic had seemed to the girl to have a peculiar saving grace,
standing in stern contrast to the social background of her life.

He thanked her, when she had finished, and he watched her, with
her background of misty blue distance, sitting where the shadow
of the ilexes brought out the color of her scarlet lips and deep
gray eyes.

"Daphne," he said presently, "you have told me much about this
man, but you have not told me that you love him. You do not
speak of him as a woman speaks of the man who makes her world for
her. You defend him, you explain him, you plead his cause, and it
must be that you are pleading it with yourself, for I have
brought no charge, that you must defend him to me. Do you love

She did not answer.

"Look at me!" he insisted. Her troubled eyes turned toward his,
but dared not stay, and the lashes fell again.

"Do not commit the crime of marrying a man you do not love," he

"But," said the girl slowly, "even if I gave him up I might not
care for you."

"Dear," he said softly, "you do love me. Is it not so?"

She shook her head, but her face belied her.

"I have waited, waited for you," he pleaded, in that low tone to
which her being vibrated as to masterful music, "so many
lifetimes! I have found you out at last!"

"How long?" she asked willfully.

"Aeons," he answered. "Since the foundation of the world. I
have waited, and now that I have found you, I will not let you
go. I will not let you go!"

She looked at him with wide-opened eyes: a solemn fear possessed
her. Was it Bertuccio's story of yesterday that filled her with
foreboding? Hardly. Rather it seemed a pleasant thought that he
and she should feel the bark of one of these great trees closing
round them, and should have so beautiful a screen of brown bark
and green moss to hide their love from all the world. No, no
fear could touch the thought of any destiny with him: she was
afraid only of herself.

"You are putting a mere nothing between us," the voice went on.
"You are pretending that there is an obstacle when there is none,

"Only another man's happiness," murmured the girl.

"I doubt if he knows what happiness is," said Apollo. "Forgive
me, but will he not be as happy with his altar candles and his
chants without you? Does he not care more for the abstract cause
for which he is working than for you? Hasn't he missed the
simple meaning of human life, and can anything teach it to him?"

"How did you know?" asked Daphne, startled.

"The gods should divine some things that are not told! Besides,
I know the man," he answered, smiling, but Daphne did not hear.
She had leaned back and closed her eyes. The warm, sweet air,
with its odor of earth, wooed her; the little breeze that made so
faint a rustle in the ilex leaves touched her cheek like quick,
fluttering kisses. The rhythmical drops from the fountain seemed
falling to the music of an old order of things, some simple,
elemental way of loving that made harmony through all life.
Could love, that had meant only duty, have anything to do with
this great joy in mere being, which turned the world to gold?

"I must, I must win you," came the voice again, and it was like a
cry. "Loving with more than human love, I will not be

She opened her eyes and watched him: the whole, firmly-knit
frame in the brown golf-suit was quivering.

"It has never turned out well," she said lightly, "when the sons
of the gods married with the daughters of men."

Perhaps he would have rebuked her for the jest, but he saw her

"I offer you all that man or god can offer," he said, standing
before her. "I offer you the devotion of a whole life. Will you
take it?"

"I will not break my promise," said the girl, rising. Her eyes
were level with his. She found such power in them that she cried
out against it in sudden anger.

"Why do you tempt me so? Why do you come and trouble my mind and
take away my peace? Who are you? What are you?"

"lf you want a human name for me"--he answered.

She raised her hand swiftly to stop him. "No, don't!" she said.
"I do not want to know. Don't tell me anything, for the mystery
is part of the beauty of you."

A shaft of golden sunlight pierced the ilex shade and smote her
forehead as she stood there.

"Apollo, the sun god," she said, smiling, as she turned and left
him alone.


Overhead was a sky of soft, dusky blue, broken by the clear light
of the stars: all about were the familiar walks of the villa
garden, mysterious now in the darkness, and seeming to lead into
infinite space. The lines of aloe, fig, and palm stood like
shadows guarding a world of mystery. Daphne, wandering alone in
the garden at midnight, half exultant, half afraid, stepped
noiselessly along the pebbled walks with a feeling that that
world was about to open for her. Ahead, through an arch where
the thick foliage of the ilexes had been cut to leave the way
clear for the passer-by, a single golden planet shone low in the
west, and the garden path led to it.

Daphne had been unable to sleep, for sleeplessness had become a
habit during the past week. Whether she was too happy or too
unhappy she could not tell: she only knew that she was restless
and smothering for air and space. Hastily dressing, she had
stolen on tiptoe down the broad stairway by the running water and
out into the night, carrying a tiny Greek lamp with a single
flame, clear, as only the flame of olive oil can be. She had put
the lamp down in the doorway, and it was burning there now, a
beacon to guide her footsteps when she wanted to return.
Meanwhile, the air was cool on throat and forehead and on her
open palms: she had no wish to go in.

Here was a fountain whose jets of water, blown high from the
mouths of merry dolphins, fell in spray in a great stone basin
where mermaids waited for the shower to touch bare shoulders and
bended heads. The murmur of the water, mingled with the murmur
of unseen live things, and the melody of night touched the girl's
discordant thoughts to music. Of what avail, after all, was her
fierce struggle for duty? Here were soft shadows, and great
spaces, and friendly stars.

Of course her lover-god, Apollo, was gone. She had known the
other day when she left him on the hill that she would not see
him again, for the look of his face had told her that. Of
course, it was better so. Now, everything would go on as had
been intended. Anna would come home; after this visit was over,
there would be New York again, and Eustace. Yes, she was brave
to share his duty with him, and the years would not be long. And
always these autumn days would be shining through the dark hours
of her life, these perfect days of sunshine without shadow. Of
their experiences she need not even tell, for she was not sure
that it had actually been real. She would keep it as a sacred
memory that was half a dream.

She was walking now by the rows of tall chrysanthemums, and she
reached out her fingers to touch them, for she could almost feel
their deep yellow through her finger-tips. It was like taking
counsel of them, and they, like all nature, were wise. Cypress
and acacia and palm stood about like strong comforters; help came
from the tangled vines upon the garden wall, from the matted
periwinkle on the ground at her feet, and the sweet late roses
blossoming in the dark.

Yes, he was gone, and the beauty and the power of him had
vanished. It was better so, she kept saying to herself, her
thoughts, no matter where they wandered, coming persistently
back, as if the idea, so obviously true, needed proving after
all. The only thing was, she would have liked to see him just
once more to show him how invincible she was. He had taken her
by surprise that day upon the hill, and had seen what she had not
meant to tell. Now, if she could confront him once, absolutely
unshaken, could tell him her decision, give him words of
dismissal in a voice that had no tremor in it, as her voice had
had the other day, that would be a satisfactory and triumphant
parting for one who had come badly off. Her shoulder burned yet
where he had kissed it, and yet she was not angry. He must have
known that day how little she was vexed. If she could only see
him once again, she said wistfully to herself, to show him how
angry she was, all would be well.

Daphne had wandered to the great stone gate that led out upon the
highway, and was leaning her forehead against a moss-grown post,
when she heard a sudden noise. Then the voice of San Pietro
Martire broke the stillness of the night, and Daphne, listening,
thought she heard a faint sound of bleating. Hermes was calling
her, and Hermes was in danger. Up the long avenue she ran toward
the house, and, seizing the tiny lamp at the doorway, sped up the
slope toward the inclosure where the two animals grazed, the
flame making a trail of light like that of a firefly moving
swiftly in the darkness. The bray rang out again, but there was
no second sound of bleating. Inside the pasture gate she found
the donkey anxiously sniffing at something that lay in the grass.
Down on her knees went Daphne, for there lay Hermes stretched out
on his side, with traces of blood at his white throat.

The girl put down her lamp and lifted him in her arms. Some
cowardly dog had done this thing, and had run away on seeing her,
or hearing her unfasten the gate. She put one finger on the
woolly bosom, but the heart was not beating. The lamb's awkward
legs were stretched out quite stiffly, and his eyes were
beginning to glaze. Two tears dropped on the fat white side;
then Daphne bent and kissed him. Looking up, she saw San Pietro
gazing on with the usual grief of his face intensified. It was
as if he understood that the place at his back where the lamb had
cuddled every night must go cold henceforward.

"We must bury him, San Pietro," said Daphne presently. "Come
help me find a place."

She put the lambkin gently down upon the ground, and, rising,
started, with one arm over San Pietro's neck, to find a burial
place for the dead. The donkey followed willingly, for he
permitted himself to love his lady with a controlled but genuine
affection; and together they searched by the light of the firefly
lamp. At last Daphne halted by a diminutive cypress, perhaps two
feet high, and announced that she was content.

The tool-house was not far away. Investigating, she found, as
she had hoped, that the door was not locked. Arming herself with
a hoe she came back, and, under the light of southern stars, dug
a little grave in the soft, dark earth, easily loosened in its
crumbling richness. Then she took the lamp and searched in the
deep thick grass for flowers, coming back with a mass of
pink-tipped daisies gathered in her skirt. The sight of the
brown earth set her to thinking: there ought to be some kind of
shroud. Near the tool-house grew a laurel tree, she remembered,
and from that she stripped a handful of green, glossy leaves, to
spread upon the bottom of the grave. This done, she bore the
body of Hermes to his resting-place, and strewed the corpse with
pink daisies.

"Should he have Christian or heathen burial?" she asked, smiling.
"This seems to be a place where the two faiths meet. I think
neither. He must just be given back to Mother Nature."

She heaped the sod over him with her own hands, and fitted neatly
together some bits of turf. Then she took up her lamp to go. San
Pietro, tired of ceremony, was grazing in the little circle of

"To-morrow," said Daphne, as she went down the hill, "he will be
eating grass from Hermes' grave."


The shadow of branching palms fell on the Signorina's hair and
hands as she sat at work near the fountain in the garden weaving
a great wreath of wild cyclamen and of fern gathered from the
hillside. Assunta was watching her anxiously, her hands resting
on her hips.

"It's a poor thing to offer the Madonna," she said at length,
"just common things that grow."

Daphne only smiled at her and went on winding white cord about
the stems under green fronds where it could not be seen.

"I was ready to buy a wreath of beautiful gauze flowers from
Rome," ventured Assunta, "all colors, red and yellow and purple.
I have plenty of silver for it upstairs in a silk bag. Our Lady
will think I am not thankful, though the blessed saints know I
have never been so thankful in my life as I am for Bertuccio's
coming home when he did."

"The Madonna will know," said Daphne. "She will like this better
than anything else."

"Are you sure?" asked Assunta dubiously.

"Yes," asserted the girl, laughing. "She told me so!"

The audacity of the remark had an unexpected effect on the
peasant woman. Assunta crossed herself.

"Perhaps she did! Perhaps she did! And do you think she does
not mind my waiting?"

"No," answered Daphne gravely. "She knows that you have been
very busy taking care of me."

Assunta trotted away, apparently content, to consult Giacomo
about dinner. The girl went on weaving with busy fingers, the
shadow of her lashes on her cheek. As she worked her thoughts
wove for her the one picture that they made always for her now:
Apollo standing on the hillside under the ilexes with the single
ray of sunshine touching his face. All the rest of her life kept
fading, leaving the minutes of that afternoon alone distinct.
And it was ten days ago!

Presently Giacomo came hurrying down the path toward her,
dangling his white apron by its string as he ran.

"Signorina!" he called breathlessly. "Would the Signorina, when
she has finished that, graciously make another wreath?"

"Certainly. For you?"

"Not for me," he answered mysteriously, drawing nearer. "Not for
me, but for Antoli, the shepherd who herds the flock of Count
Gianelli. He has seen from the window the Signorina making a
wreath for our Lady, and he too wants to present her with a
thank-offering for the miracle she wrought for him. But will the
Signorina permit him to come and tell her?"

Even while Giacomo was speaking Daphne saw the man slowly
approaching, urged on apparently by encouraging gestures from
Assunta, who was standing at the corner of the house. A thrill
went through the girl's nerves as she saw the rough brown head of
the peasant rising above the sheepskin coat that the shepherd-god
had worn. Unless miracle had made another like it, it was the
very same, even to the peculiar jagged edge where it met in

Antoli's expression was foolish and ashamed, but at Giacomo's
bidding be began a recital of his recent experiences. The girl
strained her ears to listen, but hardly a word of this dialect of
the Roman hills was intelligible to her.

The gesture wherewith the shepherd crossed himself, and his
devout pointing to the sky were all she really understood.

Then Giacomo translated.

"Because he was ill--but the Signorina knows the story--the
blessed Saint Sebastian came down to him and guarded the sheep,
and he went home and became well, miraculously well. See how he
is recovered from his fever! It was our Lady who wrought it all.
Now he comes back and all his flock is there: not one is
missing, but all are fat and flourishing. Does not the Signorina
believe that it was some one from another world who helped him?"

"Si," answered Daphne, looking at the sheepskin coat.

"No one has seen the holy saint except himself, but the blessed
one has appeared again to him. Antoli came back, afraid that the
sheep were scattered, afraid of being dismissed. He found his
little tent in order; food was there, and better food than
shepherds have, eggs and wine and bread. While he waited the
blessed one himself came, with light shining about his hair. He
brought back the coat that he had worn: see, is it not proof
that he was there?"

"The coat was a new one," interrupted the shepherd.

Giacomo repeated, and went on.

"He smiled and talked most kindly, and when he went away--the
Signorina understands?"

Daphne nodded.

"He gave his hand to Antoli," said Giacomo breathlessly.

"I will make the wreath," said the Signorina, smiling. "It shall
be of these," and she held up a handful of pink daisies, mingled
with bits of fern and ivy leaves. "Assunta shall take it to the
church when she takes hers. I rejoice that you are well," she
added, turning to Antoli with a polite sentence from the

As she worked on after they were gone, Assunta came to her again.

"The Signorina heard?" she asked.

"Si. Is the story true?" asked Daphne.

Assunta's eyes were full of hidden meaning.

"The Signorina ought to know."


"Has not the Signorina seen the blessed one herself?" she asked.

"I?" said Daphne, starting.

"The night the lambkin was killed, did not the Signorina go out
in great distress, and did not the blessed one come to her aid?"

"Ma che!" exclaimed Daphne faintly, falling back, in her
astonishment, upon Assunta's vocabulary.

"I have told no one, not even Giacomo," said Assunta, "but I saw
it all. The noise had wakened me, and I followed, but I stopped
when I saw that the divine one was there. Only I watched from
the clump of cypress trees."

"Where was he?" asked Daphne with unsteady voice.

"Beyond the laurel trees," said Assunta. "Did not the Signorina

The girl shook her head.

"How did you know that he was one of the divine?" she asked.

"Can I not tell the difference between mortal man and one of
them?" cried the peasant woman scornfully. "It was the shining
of his face, and the light about his hair, Signorina. Every look
and every motion showed that he was not of this world. Besides,
how could I see him in the dark if he were not the blessed Saint
Sebastian? And who sent the dog away if it was not he?" she
added triumphantly.

"But why should he appear to me?" asked Daphne. "I have no claim
upon the help of the saints."

"Perhaps because the Signorina is a heretic," answered Assunta
tenderly. "Our Lady must have special care for her if she sends
out the holy ones to bring her to the fold."

The woman's face was alight with reverence and pride, and Daphne
turned back to her flowers, shamed by these peasant folk for
their belief in the immanence of the divine.

Half an hour later Assunta reappeared, clad in Sunday garments,
wearing her best coral earrings and her little black silk
shoulder shawl covered with gay embroidered flowers. She held
out a letter to the girl.

"I go to take the wreaths to Our Lady," she announced, "and to
confess and pray. The Signorina has made them pretty, if they
are but common things."

Daphne was reading her letter; even the peasant woman could see
that it bore glad tidings, for the light that broke in the girl's
face was like the coming of dawn over the hills.

"Wait, Assunta," she said quietly, when she had finished, and she
disappeared among the trees. In a minute she came back with
three crimson roses, single, and yellow at the heart.

"Will you take them with your wreaths for me to the Madonna?" she
said, putting them into Assunta's hand. "I am more thankful than
either one of you."


Assunta had carried a small tray out to the arbor in the garden,
and Daphne was having her afternoon tea there alone. About her,
on the frescoed walls of this little open-air pavilion, were
grouped pink shepherds and shepherdesses, disporting themselves
in airy garments of blue and green in a meadow that ended
abruptly to make room for long windows. The girl leaned back and
sipped her tea luxuriously. She was clad in a gown that any
shepherdess among them might have envied, a pale yellow crepy
thing shot through with gleams of gold. Before her the Countess
Accolanti's silver service was set out on an inlaid Florentine
table, partially protected by an open work oriental scarf. Upon
it lay the letter that had come an hour before, and the Signorina
now and then feasted her eyes upon it. Just outside the door was
a bust of Masaccio, set on a tall pedestal, grass growing on the
rough hair and heavy eyelids. Pavilion and tea-table seemed an
odd bit of convention, set down in the neglected wildness of this
old garden, and Daphne watched it all with entire satisfaction
over her Sevres teacup.

Presently she was startled by seeing Assunta come hurrying back
with a teacup and saucer in one hand, a hot water jug in the
other. The rapid Italian of excited moments Daphne never
pretended to understand, consequently she gathered from Assunta's
incoherent words neither names nor impressions, only the bare
fact that a caller for the Countess Accolanti had rung the bell.

"He inquired, too, for the Signorina," remarked the peasant woman
finally, when her breath had nearly given out.

"Do you know him?" asked Daphne. "Have you seen him before?"

"But yes, thousands of times," said Assunta in a stage whisper.
"See, he comes. I thought it best to say that he would find the
Signorina in the garden. And the Signorina must pardon me for
the card: I dropped it into the tea-kettle and it is wet, quite

Assunta had time to note with astonishment before she left that
hostess and caller met as old friends, for the Signorina held out
her hand in greeting before a word of introduction had been said.

"I am told that your shepherd life is ended," remarked Daphne, as
she filled the cup just brought. Neither her surprise nor her
joy in his coming showed in her face.

"For the present, yes."

"You have won great devotion," said Daphne, smiling. "Only, they
all mistake you for a Christian saint."

"What does it matter?" said Apollo. "The feeling is the

"Assunta knew you at once as one of those in her calendar," the
girl went on, "but she seems to recognize your supernatural
qualities only by lamplight. I am a little bit proud that I can
detect them by day as well."

Her gayety met no response from him, and there was a long pause.
To the girl it seemed that the enveloping sunshine of the garden
was only a visible symbol of her new divine content. If she had
looked closely, which she dared not do, she would have seen that
the lurking sadness in the man's face had leaped to the surface,
touching the brown eyes with a look of eternal grief.

"I ventured to stop," he said presently, "because I was not sure
that happy chance would throw us together again. I have come to
say good-by."

"You are going away?"

"I am going away," he answered slowly.

"So shall I, some day," said Daphne, "and then moss will grow
green on my seat by the fountain, and San Pietro will be sold to
some peddler who will beat him. Of course it had to end!
Sometimes, when you tread the blue heights of Olympus, will you
think of me walking on the hard pavements of New York?"

"I shall think of you, yes," he said, failing to catch her

"And lf you ever want a message from me," she continued, "you
must look for it on your sacred laurel here on the hill by
Hermes' grave. It ls just possible, you know, that I shall be
inside, and if I am, I shall speak to you through my leaves, when
you wander that way."

Something in the man's face warned her, and her voice became

"Why do you go?" she asked.

"It is the only thing to do," he answered. "Life has thrown me
back into the old position, and I must face the same foes again.
I always rush too eagerly to snatch my good; I always hit my head
against some impassable wall. I thought I had won my battles and
was safe, and then you came."

The life had gone out of his voice, the light from his face.
Looking at him Daphne saw above his temples a touch of gray in
the golden brown of his hair.

"And then?" she asked softly.

"Then my hard-won control vanished, and I felt that I could stake
my hopes of heaven and my fears of hell to win you."

"A Greek god, with thoughts of hell?" murmured Daphne.

"Hell," he answered, "ls a feeling, not a place, as has often
been observed. I happen to be in it now, but it does not matter.
Yes, I am going away, Daphne, Daphne. You say that there are
claims upon you that you cannot thrust aside. I shall go, but in
some life, some time, I shall find you again."

Daphne looked at him with soft triumph in her eyes. Secure in
the possession of that letter on the table, she would not tell
him yet! This note of struggle gave deeper melody to the joyous
music of the shepherd on the hills.

"I asked you once about your life and all that had happened to
you: do you remember?" he inquired. "I have never told you of
my own. Will you let me tell you now?"

"If you do not tell too much and explain yourself away," she

"It is a story of tragedy, and of folly, recognized too late. I
have never told it to any human being, but I should like you to
understand. It has been an easy life, so far as outer
circumstances go. Until I was eighteen I was lord and dictator
in a household of women, spoiled by mother and sisters alike.
Then came the grief of my life. Oh, I cannot tell it, even to

The veins stood out on his forehead, and his face was indeed like
the face of a tortured Saint Sebastian. The girl's eyes were
sweet with sympathy, and with something else that he did not look
to see.

"There was a plan made for a journey. I opposed it for some
selfish whim, for I had a scheme of my own. They yielded to me
as they always did, and took my way. That day there was a
terrible accident, and all who were dear to me were killed, while
I, the murderer, was cursed with life. So, when I was eighteen,
my world was made up of four graves in the cemetery at Rome, and
of that memory. Whatever the world may say, I was as guilty of
those deaths as if I had caused them by my own hand."

He had covered his face with his palms, and his head was bent.
The girl reached out as if to touch the rumpled brown hair with
consoling fingers, then drew her hand back. In a moment, when
her courage came, he should know what share of comfort she was
ready to give him. Meanwhile, she hungered to make the farthest
reach of his suffering her own.

"Since then?" she asked softly.

"Since then I have been trying to build my life up out of its
ruins. I have tried to win content and even gladness, for I hold
that man should be master of himself, even of remorse for his old
sins. You see, I've been busy trying to find out people who had
the same kind of misery, or some other kind, to face."

"Shepherd of the wretched," said the girl dreamily.

"Something like that," he answered.

The girl's face was all a-quiver for pity of the tale; in
listening to the story of his life she had completely forgotten
her own. Then, before she knew what was happening, he rose
abruptly and held out his hand.

"Every minute that I stay makes matters harder," he said. "I've
got to go to see if I cannot win gladness even out of this, for
still my gospel is the gospel of joy. Good-by."

Suddenly Daphne realized that he was gone! She could hear his
footsteps on the pebble-stones of the walk as he swung on with
his long stride. She started to run after him, then stopped.
After all, how could she find words for what she had to say?
Walking to the great gate by the highway she looked wistfully
between its iron rods, for one last glimpse of him. A sudden
realization came to her that she knew nothing about him, not even
an address, "except Delphi," she said whimsically to herself.
Only a minute ago he had been there; and now she had wantonly let
him go out of her life forever.

"I wonder if the Madonna threw my roses away," she thought,
coming back with slow feet to the arbor, and realizing for the
first time since she had reached the Villa Accolanti that she was
alone, and very far away from home.


San Pietro and Bertuccio were waiting at the doorway, both
blinking sleepily in the morning air. At San Pietro's right side
hung a tiny pannier, covered by a fringed white napkin, above
which lay a small flask decorated with corn husk and gay yarn,
where red wine sparkled like rubies in the sunshine. The varying
degrees of the donkey's resignation were registered exactly in
the changing angles at which his right ear was cocked.

"Pronta!" called Assunta, who was putting the finishing touches
on saddle and luncheon basket. "If the Signorina means to climb
the Monte Altiera she must start before the sun is high."

On the hillside above Daphne heard, but her feet strayed only
more slowly. She was wandering with a face like that of a sky
across which thin clouds scud, in the grass about Hermes' grave.
In her hand was the letter of yesterday, and in her eyes the
memory of the days before.

"It is all too late," said Daphne, who had learned to talk aloud
in this world where no one understood. "The Greeks were right in
thinking that our lives are ruled by mocking fate. I wonder what
angry goddess cast forgetfulness upon my mind, so that I forgot
to tell Apollo what this letter says."

Daphne looked to the open sky, but it gave no answer, and she
paused by the laurel tree with head bent down. Then, with a
sudden, wistful little laugh, she held out the letter and
fastened it to the laurel, tearing a hole in one corner to let a
small bare twig go through. With a blunt pencil she scribbled on
it in large letters: "Let Apollo read, if he ever wanders this

"He will never find it," said the girl, "and the rain will come
and soak it, and it will bleach in the sun. But nobody else
knows enough to read it, and I shall leave it there on his sacred
tree, as my last offering. I suppose there is some saving grace
even in the sacrifices that go astray."

Then she descended the hill, climbed upon San Pietro's back, and
rode through the gateway.

An hour later, Assunta, going to find a spade in the tool-house,
for she was transplanting roses, came upon the Signorina's caller
of yesterday standing near the tool-house with something in his
hand. The peasant woman's face showed neither awe nor fear; only
lively curiosity gleamed in the blinking brown eyes.

"Buon' giorno," said Apollo, exactly as mortals do.

"Buon' giorno, Altezza," returned Assunta.

"Is the Signorina at home?" asked the intruder.

"But no!" cried Assunta. "She has started to climb the very sky
to-day, Monte Altiera, and for what I can't make out. It only
wears out Bertuccio's shoes and the asinetto's legs."

"Grazia," said Apollo, moving away.

"Does his Highness think that the Signorina resembles her sister,
the Contessa?" asked the peasant woman for the sake of a
detaining word.

"Not at all," answered the visitor, and he passed into the open

Then he turned over in his hand the letter which he had taken
from the laurel. Though he had read it thee times he hardly
understood as yet, and his face was the face of one who sees that
the incredible has come to pass. The letter was made up of
fifteen closely written pages, and it told the story of a young
clergyman, who, convinced at last that celibacy and the shelter
of the Roman priesthood were his true vocation, had, after long
prayer and much mediation, decided to flee the snares of the
world and to renounce its joys for the sake of bliss the other
side of life.

"When you receive this letter, my dear Daphne," wrote Eustace
Denton, "I shall have been taken into the brotherhood of Saint
Ambrose, for I wish to place myself in a position where there
will be no retracing my steps."

The face of the reader on the Roman hills, as it was lifted from
the page again to the sunshine, was full of the needless pity of
an alien faith.

Along the white road that led up the mountain, and over the
grass-grown path that climbed the higher slopes, trod a solitary
traveler. Now his step was swift, as if some invisible spirit of
the wind were wafting him on; and again the pace was slow and his
head bent, as if some deep thought stayed his speed. There were
green slopes above, green slopes below, and the world opened out
as he climbed on and up. Out and out sketched the great
Campagne, growing wider at each step, with the gray, unbroken
lines of aqueduct leading toward Rome and the shining sea beyond.

* * * * * * * *

On a great flat stone far up on the heights sat two motionless
figures: below them, partly veiling the lower world, floated a
thin mist of cloud.

"This must be Olympus," said Daphne.

"Any mountain is Olympus that touches the sky," answered Apollo.

"Where are the others?" demanded the girl. "Am I not to know
your divine friends?"

"Don't you see them?" he asked as in surprise,--"Aphrodite just
yonder in violet robe, and Juno, and Hermes with winged feet"--

"I am afraid I am a wee bit blind, being but mortal," answered
Daphne. "I can see nothing but you."

Beside them on the rock, spread out on oak leaves, lay clusters
of purple grapes, six black ripe olives, and a little pile of
biscotti Inglesi. The girl bent and poured from the curving
flask red wine that bubbled in the glass, then gave it to her
companion, saying: "Quick, before Hebe gets here," and the sound
of their merriment rung down the hillside.

"Hark!" whispered Daphne. "I hear an echo of the unquenchable
laughter of the gods! They cannot be far away."

From another stone near at hand Bertuccio watched them with eyes
that feigned not to see. Bertuccio did not understand English,
but he understood everything else. Goodly shares of the nectar
and ambrosia of this feast had fallen to his lot, and Bertuccio
in his own way was almost as happy as the lovers. In the soft
grass near San Pietro Martire nibbled peacefully, now and then
lifting his eyes to see what was going on. Once he brayed. He
alone, of all nature, seemed impervious to the joy that had
descended upon earth.

It was only an hour since Daphne had been overtaken. Few words
had sufficed for understanding, and Bertuccio had looked

"My only fear was that I should find you turned into a laurel
tree," said Apollo. "I shall always be afraid of

"Apollo," said Daphne irrelevantly, holding out to him a bunch of
purple grapes in the palm of her hand, "there is a practical side
to all this. People will have to know, I am afraid. I must
write to my sister."

"I have reason to think that the Countess Accolanti will not be
displeased," he answered. There was a queer little look about
his mouth, but Daphne asked for no explanation.

"There is your father," he suggested.

"Oh!" said Daphne. "He will love you at once. His tastes and
mine are very much alike."

The lover-god smiled, quite satisfied.

"You chose the steepest road of all to-day, little girl," he
said. "But it is not half so long nor so hard as the one I
expected to climb to find you."

"You are tired!" said Daphne anxiously. "Rest."

Bertuccio was sleeping on his flat rock; San Pietro lay down for
a brief, ascetic slumber. The lovers sat side by side, with the
mystery of beauty about them: the purple and gold of nearness
and distance; bright color of green grass near, sombre tint of
cypress and stone pine afar.

"I shall never really know whether you are a god or not," said
Daphne dreamily.

"A very proper attitude for a woman to have toward her husband,"
he answered with a smile. "I must try hard to live up to the
character. You will want to live on Olympus, and you really
ought, if you are going to wear gowns woven of my sunbeams like
the one you had on yesterday. How shall I convince you that Rome
must do part of the time? You will want me to make you immortal:
that always happens when a maiden marries a god."

"I think you have done that already," said Daphne.

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