Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: A Little Boy Lost
Author: Hudson, W. H. (William Henry), 1841-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Little Boy Lost" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: ]

A LITTLE BOY LOST


By W. H. Hudson

Illustrated by A. D. M'Cormick



CONTENTS

_CHAPTER_

I THE HOME ON THE GREAT PLAIN,

II THE SPOONBILL AND THE CLOUD,

III CHASING A FLYING FIGURE,

IV MARTIN IS FOUND BY A DEAF OLD MAN,

V THE PEOPLE OF THE MIRAGE,

VI MARTIN MEETS WITH SAVAGES,

VII ALONE IN THE GREAT FOREST,

VIII THE FLOWER AND THE SERPENT,

IX THE BLACK PEOPLE OF THE SKY,

X A TROOP OF WILD HORSES,

XI THE LADY OF THE HILLS,

XII THE LITTLE PEOPLE UNDERGROUND,

XIII THE GREAT BLUE WATER,

XIV THE WONDERS OF THE HILLS,

XV MARTIN'S EYES ARE OPENED,

XVI THE PEOPLE OF THE MIST,

XVII THE OLD MAN OF THE SEA,

XVIII MARTIN PLAYS WITH THE WAVES,



            CHAPTER I


THE HOME ON THE GREAT PLAIN

Some like to be one thing, some another. There is so much to be done,
so many different things to do, so many trades! Shepherds, soldiers,
sailors, ploughmen, carters--one could go on all day naming without
getting to the end of them. For myself, boy and man, I have been
many things, working for a living, and sometimes doing things just
for pleasure; but somehow, whatever I did, it never seemed quite the
right and proper thing to do--it never quite satisfied me. I always
wanted to do something else--I wanted to be a carpenter. It seemed
to me that to stand among wood-shavings and sawdust, making things
at a bench with bright beautiful tools out of nice-smelling wood,
was the cleanest, healthiest, prettiest work that any man can do.
Now all this has nothing, or very little, to do with my story: I
only spoke of it because I had to begin somehow, and it struck me
that I would make a start that way. And for another reason, too.
_His father was a carpenter_. I mean Martin's father--Martin, the
Little Boy Lost. His father's name was John, and he was a very good
man and a good carpenter, and he loved to do his carpentering better
than anything else; in fact as much as I should have loved it if I
had been taught that trade. He lived in a seaside town, named
Southampton, where there is a great harbour, where he saw great
ships coming and going to and from all parts of the world. Now, no
strong, brave man can live in a place like that, seeing the ships
and often talking to the people who voyaged in them about the
distant lands where they had been, without wishing to go and see
those distant countries for himself. When it is winter in England,
and it rains and rains, and the east wind blows, and it is grey and
cold and the trees are bare, who does not think how nice it would be
to fly away like the summer birds to some distant country where the
sky is always blue and the sun shines bright and warm every day? And
so it came to pass that John, at last, when he was an old man, sold
his shop, and went abroad. They went to a country many thousands of
miles away--for you must know that Mrs. John went too; and when the
sea voyage ended, they travelled many days and weeks in a wagon
until they came to the place where they wanted to live; and there,
in that lonely country, they built a house, and made a garden, and
planted an orchard. It was a desert, and they had no neighbours, but
they were happy enough because they had as much land as they wanted,
and the weather was always bright and beautiful; John, too, had his
carpenter's tools to work with when he felt inclined; and, best of
all, they had little Martin to love and think about.

But how about Martin himself? You might think that with no other
child to prattle to and play with or even to see, it was too lonely
a home for him. Not a bit of it! No child could have been happier.
He did not want for company; his playfellows were the dogs and cats
and chickens, and any creature in and about the house. But most of
all he loved the little shy creatures that lived in the sunshine
among the flowers--the small birds and butterflies, and little
beasties and creeping things he was accustomed to see outside the
gate among the tall, wild sunflowers. There were acres of these
plants, and they were taller than Martin, and covered with flowers
no bigger than marigolds, and here among the sunflowers he used to
spend most of the day, as happy as possible.

He had other amusements too. Whenever John went to his carpenter's
shop--for the old man still dearly loved his carpentering--Martin
would run in to keep him company. One thing he liked to do was to
pick up the longest wood-shavings, to wind them round his neck and
arms and legs, and then he would laugh and dance with delight, happy
as a young Indian in his ornaments.

A wood-shaving may seem a poor plaything to a child with all the
toyshops in London to pick and choose from, but it is really very
curious and pretty. Bright and smooth to the touch, pencilled with
delicate wavy lines, while in its spiral shape it reminds one of
winding plants, and tendrils by means of which vines and creepers
support themselves, and flowers with curling petals, and curled
leaves and sea-shells and many other pretty natural objects.

One day Martin ran into the house looking very flushed and joyous,
holding up his pinafore with something heavy in it.

"What have you got now?" cried his father and mother in a breath,
getting up to peep at his treasure, for Martin was always fetching
in the most curious out-of-the-way things to show them.

"My pretty shaving," said Martin proudly.

[Illustration: ]

When they looked they were amazed and horrified to see a spotted
green snake coiled comfortably up in the pinafore. It didn't appear
to like being looked at by them, for it raised its curious
heart-shaped head and flicked its little red, forked tongue at them.

His mother gave a great scream, and dropped the jug she had in her
hand upon the floor, while John rushed off to get a big stick.
"Drop it, Martin--drop the wicked snake before it stings you, and
I'll soon kill it."

Martin stared, surprised at the fuss they were making; then, still
tightly holding the ends of his pinafore, he turned and ran out of
the room and away as fast as he could go. Away went his father after
him, stick in hand, and out of the gate into the thicket of tall wild
sunflowers where Martin had vanished from sight. After hunting about
for some time, he found the little run-away sitting on the ground
among the weeds.

"Where's the snake?" he cried.

"Gone!" said Martin, waving his little hand around. "I let it go and
you mustn't look for it."

John picked the child up in his arms and marched back to the room
and popped him down on the floor, then gave him a good scolding.
"It's a mercy the poisonous thing didn't sting you," he said.
"You're a naughty little boy to play with snakes, because they're
dangerous bad things, and you die if they bite you. And now you must
go straight to bed; that's the only punishment that has any effect
on such a harebrained little butterfly."

Martin, puckering up his face for a cry, crept away to his little
room. It was very hard to have to go to bed in the daytime when he
was not sleepy, and when the birds and butterflies were out in the
sunshine having such a good time.

"It's not a bit of use scolding him--I found that out long ago,"
said Mrs. John, shaking her head. "Do you know, John, I can't help
thinking sometimes that he's not our child at all."

"Whose child do you think he is, then?" said John, who had a cup of
water in his hand, for the chase after Martin had made him hot, and
he wanted cooling.

"I don't know--but I once had a very curious dream."

"People often do have curious dreams," said wise old John.

"But this was a very curious one, and I remember saying to myself,
if this doesn't mean something that is going to happen, then dreams
don't count for much."

"No more they do," said John.

"It was in England, just when we were getting ready for the voyage,
and it was autumn, when the birds were leaving us. I dreamed that I
went out alone and walked by the sea, and stood watching a great
number of swallows flying by and out over the sea--flying away to
some distant land. By-and-by I noticed one bird coming down lower
and lower as if he wanted to alight, and I watched it, and it came
down straight to me, and at last flew right into my bosom. I put my
hand on it, and looking close saw that it was a martin, all pure
white on its throat and breast, and with a white patch on its back.
Then I woke up, and it was because of that dream that I named our
child Martin instead of John as you wished to do. Now, when I watch
swallows flying about, coming and going round the house, I sometimes
think that Martin came to us like that one in the dream, and that
some day he will fly away from us. When he gets bigger, I mean."

"When he gets littler," you mean, said John with a laugh. "No, no,
he's too big for a swallow--a Michaelmas goose would be nothing to
him for size. But here I am listening to your silly dreams instead of
watering the melons and cucumbers!" And out he went to his garden,
but in a minute he put his head in at the door and said, "You may go
and tell him to get up if you like. Poor little fellow! Only make him
promise not to go chumming with spotted snakes any more, and not to
bring them into the house, because somehow they disagree with me."

[Illustration: ]



CHAPTER II


THE SPOONBILL AND THE CLOUD

As Martin grew in years and strength, his age being now about seven,
his rambles began to extend beyond the waste grounds outside of the
fenced orchard and gate. These waste grounds were a wilderness of
weeds: here were the sunflowers that Martin liked best; the wild
cock's-comb, flaunting great crimson tufts; the yellow flowering
mustard, taller than the tallest man; giant thistle, and wild
pumpkin with spotted leaves; the huge hairy fox-gloves with yellow
bells; feathery fennel, and the big grey-green thorn-apples, with
prickly burs full of bright red seed, and long white wax-like flowers,
that bloomed only in the evening. He could never get high enough on
anything to see over the tops of these plants; but at last he found
his way through them, and discovered on their further side a wide
grassy plain with scarcely a tree on it, stretching away into the
blue distance. On this vast plain he gazed with wonderment and
delight. Behind the orchard and weedy waste the ground sloped down
to a stream of running water, full of tall rushes with dark green
polished stems, and yellow water-lilies. All along the moist banks
grew other flowers that were never seen in the dry ground above--the
blue star, and scarlet and white verbenas; and sweet-peas of all
colours; and the delicate red vinegar flower, and angel's hair, and
the small fragrant lilies called Mary's-tears, and tall scattered
flags, flaunting their yellow blossoms high above the meadow grass.

Every day Martin ran down to the stream to gather flowers and shells;
for many curious water-snails were found there with brown
purple-striped shells; and he also liked to watch the small birds
that build their nests in the rushes.

There were three of these small birds that did not appear to know
that Martin loved them; for no sooner would he present himself at
the stream than forth they would flutter in a great state of mind.
One, the prettiest, was a tiny, green-backed little creature, with a
crimson crest and a velvet-black band across a bright yellow breast:
this one had a soft, low, complaining voice, clear as a silver bell.
The second was a brisk little grey and black fellow, with a loud,
indignant chuck, and a broad tail which he incessantly opened and
shut, like a Spanish lady playing with her fan.

The third was a shy, mysterious little brown bird, peering out of
the clustering leaves, and making a sound like the soft ticking of a
clock. They were like three little men, an Italian, a Dutchman, and
a Hindoo, talking together, each in his own language, and yet well
able to understand each other. Martin could not make out what they
said, but suspected that they were talking about him; and he feared
that their remarks were not always of a friendly nature.

At length he made the discovery that the water of the stream was
perpetually running away. If he dropped a leaf on the surface it
would hasten down stream, and toss about and fret impatiently
against anything that stood in its way, until, making its escape, it
would quickly hurry out of sight. Whither did this rippling, running
water go? He was anxious to find out. At length, losing all fear and
fired with the sight of many new and pretty things he found while
following it, he ran along the banks until, miles from home, he came
to a great lake he could hardly see across, it was so broad. It was
a wonderful place, full of birds; not small, fretful creatures
flitting in and out of the rushes, but great majestic birds that
took very little notice of him. Far out on the blue surface of the
water floated numbers of wild fowl, and chief among them for grace
and beauty was the swan, pure white with black head and neck and
crimson bill. There also were stately flamingoes, stalking along
knee-deep in the water, which was shallow; and nearer to the shore
were flocks of rose-coloured spoonbills and solitary big grey herons
standing motionless; also groups of white egrets, and a great
multitude of glossy ibises, with dark green and purple plumage and
long sickle-like beaks.

The sight of this water with its beds of rushes and tall flowering
reeds, and its great company of birds, filled Martin with delight;
and other joys were soon to follow. Throwing off his shoes, he
dashed with a shout into the water, frightening a number of ibises;
up they flew, each bird uttering a cry repeated many times, that
sounded just like his old father's laugh when he laughed loud and
heartily. Then what was Martin's amazement to hear his own shout and
this chorus of bird ha, ha, ha's, repeated by hundreds of voices all
over the lake. At first he thought that the other birds were mocking
the ibises; but presently he shouted again, and again his shouts
were repeated by dozens of voices. This delighted him so much that
he spent the whole day shouting himself hoarse at the waterside.

When he related his wonderful experience at home, and heard from his
father that the sounds he had heard were only echoes from the beds
of rushes, he was not a bit wiser than before, so that the echoes
remained to him a continual wonder and source of never-failing
pleasure.

Every day he would take some noisy instrument to the lake to startle
the echoes; a whistle his father made him served for a time; after
that he marched up and down the banks, rattling a tin canister with
pebbles in it; then he got a large frying-pan from the kitchen, and
beat on it with a stick every day for about a fortnight. When he
grew tired of all these sounds, and began casting about for some new
thing to wake the echoes with, he all at once remembered his
father's gun--just what he wanted, for it was the noisiest thing in
the world. Watching his opportunity, he got secretly into the room
where it was kept loaded, and succeeded in carrying it out of the
house without being seen; then, full of joyful anticipations, he ran
as fast as the heavy gun would let him to his favourite haunt.

When he arrived at the lake three or four spoonbills--those beautiful,
tall, rose-coloured birds--were standing on the bank, quietly dozing
in the hot sunshine. They did not fly away at his approach, for the
birds were now so accustomed to Martin and his harmless noises that
they took very little notice of him. He knelt on one knee and
pointed the gun at them.

[Illustration: ]

"Now, birdies, you don't know what a fright I'm going to give
you--off you go!" he cried, and pulled the trigger.

The roar of the loud report travelled all over the wide lake,
creating a great commotion among the feathered people, and they rose
up with a general scream into the air.

All this was of no benefit to Martin, the recoil of the gun having
sent him flying over, his heels in the air; and before he recovered
himself the echoes were silent, and all the frightened birds were
settling on the water again. But there, just before him, lay one of
the spoonbills, beating its great rose-coloured wings against the
ground.

Martin ran to it, full of keen distress, but was powerless to help;
its life's blood was fast running away from the shot wounds it had
received in its side, staining the grass with crimson. Presently it
closed its beautiful ruby-coloured eyes and the quivering wings grew
still.

Then Martin sat down on the grass by its side and began to cry, Oh,
that great bird, half as tall as himself, and so many times more
lovely and strong and beautiful in its life--he had killed it, and
it would never fly again! He raised it up very tenderly in his arms
and kissed it--kissed its pale green head and rosy wings; then out
of his arms it tumbled back again on to the grass.

"Oh, poor bird," he cried suddenly, "open your wings and fly away!"

But it was dead.

Then Martin got up and stared all round him at the wide landscape,
and everything looked strange and dim and sorrowful. A shadow passed
over the lake, and a murmur came up out of the rushes that was like
a voice saying something that he could not understand. A great cry
of pain rose from his heart and died to a whisper on his lips; he
was awed into silence. Sinking down upon the grass again, he hid his
face against the rosy-breasted bird and began to sob. How warm the
dead bird felt against his cheek--oh, so warm--and it could not live
and fly about with the others.

At length he sat up and knew the reason of that change that had come
over the earth. A dark cloud had sprung up in the south-west, far
off as yet, and near the horizon; but its fringe already touched and
obscured the low-hanging sun, and a shadow flew far and vast before
it. Over the lake flew that great shadow: the waters looked cold and
still, reflecting as in a polished glass the motionless rushes, the
glassy bank, and Martin, sitting on it, still clasping in his arms
the dead rose-coloured bird.

Swifter and vaster, following close upon the flying shadow, came the
mighty cloud, changing from black to slaty grey; and then, as the
sun broke forth again under its lower edge, it was all flushed with
a brilliant rose colour. But what a marvellous thing it was, when
the cloud covered a third of the wide heavens, almost touching the
horizon on either side with its wing-like extremities; Martin,
gazing steadily at it, saw that in its form it was like an immense
spoonbill flying through the air! He would gladly have run away then
to hide himself from its sight, but he dared not stir, for it was
now directly above him; so, lying down on the grass and hiding his
face against the dead bird, he waited in fear and trembling.

[Illustration: ]

He heard the rushing sound of the mighty wings: the wind they
created smote on the waters in a hurricane, so that the reeds were
beaten flat on the surface, and a great cry of terror went up from
all the wild birds. It passed, and when Martin raised his bowed head
and looked again, the sun, just about to touch the horizon with its
great red globe, shone out, shedding a rich radiance over the earth
and water; while far off, on the opposite side of the heavens, the
great cloud-bird was rapidly fading out of sight.



CHAPTER III


CHASING A FLYING FIGURE

After what had happened Martin could never visit the waterside and
look at the great birds wading and swimming there without a feeling
that was like a sudden coldness in the blood of his veins. The rosy
spoonbill he had killed and cried over and the great bird-cloud that
had frightened him were never forgotten. He grew tired of shouting
to the echoes: he discovered that there were even more wonderful
things than the marsh echoes in the world, and that the world was
bigger than he had thought it. When spring with its moist verdure
and frail, sweet-smelling flowers had gone; when the great plain
began to turn to a rusty-brown colour, and the dry hard earth was
full of cracks, and the days grew longer and the heat greater, there
came an appearance of water that quivered and glittered and danced
before his wondering sight, and would lead him miles from home every
day in his vain efforts to find out what it was. He could talk of
nothing else, and asked endless questions about it, and they told
him that this strange thing was nothing but the Mirage, but of
course that was not telling him enough, so that he was left to
puzzle his little boy-brains over this new mystery, just as they had
puzzled before over the mystery of the echoes. Now this Mirage was a
glittering whiteness that looked just like water, always shining and
dancing before him and all round him, on the dry level plain where
there was no water. It was never quiet, but perpetually quivering
and running into wavelets that threw up crests and jets of sprays as
from a fountain, and showers of brilliant drops that flashed like
molten silver in the sunlight before they broke and vanished, only
to be renewed again. It appeared every day when the sun was high and
the air hot, and it was often called _The False Water_. And false it
was, since it always flew before him as he ran, so that although he
often seemed to be getting nearer to it he could never quite
overtake it. But Martin had a very determined spirit for a small boy,
and although this appearance of water mocked his efforts a hundred
times every day with its vanishing brightness and beauty, he would
not give up the pursuit.

Now one day when there was not a cloud on the great hot whitey-blue
sky, nor a breath of air stirring, when it was all silent, for not
even a grass-hopper creaked in the dead, yellow, motionless grass,
the whole level earth began to shine and sparkle like a lake of
silvery water, as Martin had never seen it shine before. He had
wandered far away from home--never had he been so far--and still he
ran and ran and ran, and still that whiteness quivered and glittered
and flew on before him; and ever it looked more temptingly near,
urging him to fresh exertions. At length, tired out and overcome
with heat, he sat down to rest, and feeling very much hurt at the
way he had been deceived and led on, he shed one little tear. There
was no mistake about that tear; he felt it running like a small
spider down his cheek, and finally he saw it fall. It fell on to a
blade of yellow grass and ran down the blade, then stopped so as to
gather itself into a little round drop before touching the ground.
Just then, out of the roots of the grass beneath it, crept a tiny
dusty black beetle and began drinking the drop, waving its little
horns up and down like donkey's ears, apparently very much pleased
at its good fortune in finding water and having a good drink in such
a dry, thirsty place. Probably it took the tear for a drop of rain
just fallen out of the sky.

"You _are_ a funny little thing!" exclaimed Martin, feeling now less
like crying than laughing.

The wee beetle, satisfied and refreshed, climbed up the grass-blade,
and when it reached the tip lifted its dusty black wing-cases just
enough to throw out a pair of fine gauzy wings that had been neatly
folded up beneath them, and flew away.

[Illustration: ]

Martin, following its flight, had his eyes quite dazzled by the
intense glitter of the False Water, which now seemed to be only a
few yards from him: but the strangest thing was that in it there
appeared a form--a bright beautiful form that vanished when he gazed
steadily at it. Again he got up and began running harder than ever
after the flying mocking Mirage, and every time he stopped he
fancied that he could see the figure again, sometimes like a pale
blue shadow on the brightness; sometimes shining with its own
excessive light, and sometimes only seen in outline, like a figure
graved on glass, and always vanishing when looked at steadily.
Perhaps that white water-like glitter of the Mirage was like a
looking-glass, and he was only chasing his own reflection. I cannot
say, but there it was, always before him, a face as of a beautiful
boy, with tumbled hair and laughing lips, its figure clothed in a
fluttering dress of lights and shadows. It also seemed to beckon to
him with its hand, and encourage him to run on after it with its
bright merry glances.

[Illustration: ]

At length when it was past the hour of noon, Martin sat down under a
small bush that gave just shade enough to cover him and none to spare.
It was only a little spot of shade like an island in a sea of heat
and brightness. He was too hot and tired to run more, too tired even
to keep his eyes open, and so, propping his back against the stem of
the small bush, he closed his tired hot eyes.



CHAPTER IV


MARTIN IS FOUND BY A DEAF OLD MAN

Martin kept his eyes shut for only about a minute, as he thought;
but he must have been asleep some time, for when he opened them the
False Water had vanished, and the sun, looking very large and crimson,
was just about to set. He started up, feeling very thirsty and
hungry and bewildered; for he was far, far from home, and lost on
the great plain. Presently he spied a man coming towards him on
horseback. A very funny-looking old man he proved to be, with a face
wrinkled and tanned by sun and wind, until it resembled a piece of
ancient shoe-leather left lying for years on some neglected spot of
ground. A Brazil nut is not darker nor more wrinkled than was the
old man's face. His long matted beard and hair had once been white,
but the sun out of doors and the smoke in his smoky hut had given
them a yellowish tinge, so that they looked like dry dead grass. He
wore big jack-boots, patched all over, and full of cracks and holes;
and a great pea-jacket, rusty and ragged, fastened with horn buttons
big as saucers. His old brimless hat looked like a dilapidated
tea-cosy on his head, and to prevent it from being carried off by
the wind it was kept on with an old flannel shirtsleeve tied under
his chin. His saddle, too, like his clothes, was old and full of
rents, with wisps of hair and straw-stuffing sticking out in various
places, and his feet were thrust into a pair of big stirrups made of
pieces of wood and rusty iron tied together with string and wire.

[Illustration: ]

"Boy, what may you being a doing of here?" bawled this old man at
the top of his voice: for he was as deaf as a post, and like a good
many deaf people thought it necessary to speak very loud to make
himself heard.

"Playing," answered Martin innocently. But he could not make the old
man hear until he stood up on tip-toe and shouted out his answer as
loud as he could.

"Playing," exclaimed the old man. "Well, I never in all my life!
When there ain't a house 'cepting my own for leagues and leagues,
and he says he's playing! What may you be now?" he shouted again.

"A little boy," screamed Martin.

"I knowed that afore I axed," said the other. Then he slapped his
legs and held up his hands with astonishment, and at last began to
chuckle. "Will you come home along o' me?" he shouted.

"Will you give me something to eat?" asked Martin in return.

"Haw, haw, haw," guffawed the old fellow. It was a tremendous laugh,
so loud and hollow, it astonished and almost frightened Martin to
hear it. "Well I never!" he said. "He ain't no fool, neither. Now,
old Jacob, just you take your time and think a bit afore you makes
your answer to that."

This curious old man, whose name was Jacob, had lived so long by
himself that he always thought out loud--louder than other people
talk: for, being deaf, he could not hear himself, and never had a
suspicion that he could be heard by others.

"He's lost, that's what he is," continued old Jacob aloud to himself.
"And what's more, he's been and gone and forgot all about his own
home, and all he wants is summat to eat. I'll take him and keep him,
that's what I'll do: for he's a stray lamb, and belongs to him that
finds him, like any other lamb I finds. I'll make him believe I'm
his old dad; for he's little and will believe most anything you
tells him. I'll learn him to do things about the house--to boil the
kettle, and cook the wittels, and gather the firewood, and mend the
clothes, and do the washing, and draw the water, and milk the cow,
and dig the potatoes, and mind the sheep and--and--and that's what
I'll learn him. Then, Jacob, you can sit down and smoke your pipe,
'cos you'll have some one to do your work for you."

Martin stood quietly listening to all this, not quite understanding
the old man's kind intentions. Then old Jacob, promising to give him
something to eat, pulled him up on to his horse, and started home at
a gallop.

Soon they arrived at a mud hovel, thatched with rushes, the roof
sloping down so low that one could almost step on to it; it was
surrounded with a ditch, and had a potato patch and a sheep enclosure;
for old Jacob was a shepherd, and had a flock of sheep. There were
several big dogs, and when Martin got down from the horse, they
began jumping round him, barking with delight, as if they knew him,
half-smothering him with their rough caresses. Jacob led him into
the hut, which looked extremely dirty and neglected, and had only
one room. In the corners against the walls were piles of sheep-skins
that had a strong and rather unpleasant smell: the thatch above was
covered with dusty cobwebs, hanging like old rags, and the clay
floor was littered with bones, sticks, and other rubbish. The only
nice thing to see was a teakettle singing and steaming away merrily
on the fire in the grate. Old Jacob set about preparing the evening
meal; and soon they sat down at a small deal table to a supper of
cold mutton and potatoes, and tea which did not taste very nice, as
it was sweetened with moist black sugar. Martin was too hungry to
turn up his nose at anything, and while he ate and drank the old man
chuckled and talked aloud to himself about his good fortune in
finding the little boy to do his work for him. After supper he
cleared the table, and put two mugs of tea on it, and then got out
his clay pipe and tobacco.

"Now, little boy," he cried, "let's have a jolly evening together.
Your very good health, little boy," and here he jingled his mug
against Martin's, and took a sip of tea.

"Would you like to hear a song, little boy?" he said, after
finishing his pipe.

"No," said Martin, who was getting sleepy; but Jacob took no to mean
yes, and so he stood up on his legs and sang this song:--


  "My name is Jacob, that's my name;
      And tho' I'm old, the old man's game--
    The air it is so good, d'ye see:
      And on the plain my flock I keep,
      And sing all day to please my sheep,
      And never lose them like Bo-Peep,
    Becos the ways of them are known to me."

    "When winter comes and winds do blow,
       Unto my sheep so good I go--
    I'm always good to them, d'ye see--
      Ho, sheep, say I, both ram, both ewe,
      I've sung you songs all summer through,
      Now lend to me a skin or two,
    To keep the cold and wet from out o' me."


This song, accompanied with loud raps on the table, was bellowed
forth in a dreadfully discordant voice; and very soon all the dogs
rushed into the room and began to bark and howl most dismally, which
seemed to please the old man greatly, for to him it was a kind of
applause. But the noise was too much for Martin; so he stopped up
his ears, and only removed his fingers from them when the
performance was over. After the song the old man offered to dance,
for he had not yet had amusement enough.

"Boy, can you play on this?" he shouted, holding up a frying-pan and
a big stick to beat it with. Of course Martin could play on _that_
instrument: he had often enough played on one like it to startle the
echoes on the lake, in other days. And so, when he had been lifted
on to the table, he took the frying-pan by the handle, and began
vigorously beating on it with the stick. He did not mind the noise
now since he was helping to make it. Meanwhile old Jacob began
flinging his arms and legs about in all directions, looking like a
scarecrow made to tumble about by means of springs and wires. He
pounded the clay floor with his ponderous old boots until the room
was filled with a cloud of dust; then in his excitement he kicked
over chairs, pots, kettles, and whatever came in his way, while he
kept on revolving round the table in a kind of crazy fandango.
Martin thought it fine fun, and screamed with laughter, and beat his
gong louder than ever; then to make matters worse old Jacob at
intervals uttered whoops and yells, which the dogs answered with
long howls from the door, until the din was something tremendous.

[Illustration: ]

At length they both grew tired, and then after resting and sipping
some more cold tea, prepared to go to bed. Some sheep-skins were
piled up in a corner for Martin to sleep on, and old Jacob covered
him with a horse-rug, and tucked him in very carefully. Then the kind
old man withdrew to his own bed on the opposite side of the room.

About midnight Martin was wakened by loud horrible noises in the room,
and started up on bed trembling with fear. The sounds came from the
old man's nose, and resembled a succession of blasts on a ram's horn,
which, on account of its roughness and twisted shape, makes a very
bad trumpet. As soon as Martin discovered the cause of the noise he
crept out of bed and tried to waken the old snorer by shouting at him,
tugging at his arms and legs, and finally pulling his beard. He
refused to wake. Then Martin had a bright idea, and groping his way
to the bucket of cold water standing beside the fire-place, he
managed to raise it up in his arms, and poured it over the sleeper.
The snoring changed to a series of loud choking snorts, then ceased.
Martin, well pleased at the success of his experiment, was about to
return to his bed when old Jacob struggled up to a sitting posture.

"Hullo, wake up, little boy!" he shouted. "My bed's all full o'
water--goodness knows where it comes from."

"I poured it over you to wake you up. Don't you know you were making
a noise with your nose?" cried Martin at the top of his voice.

"You--you--you throwed it over me! You--O you most wicked little
villain you! You throwed it over me, did you!" and here he poured
out such a torrent of abusive words that Martin was horrified and
cried out, "O what a naughty, wicked, bad old man you are!"

It was too dark for old Jacob to see him, but he knew his way about
the room, and taking up the wet rug that served him for covering he
groped his way to Martin's bed and began pounding it with the rug,
thinking the naughty little boy was there.

"You little rascal you--I hope you like that!--and that!--and that!"
he shouted, pounding away. "I'll learn you to throw water over your
poor old dad! And such a--a affectionate father as I've been too,
giving him sich nice wittels--and--and singing and dancing to him to
teach him music. Perhaps you'd like a little more, you takes it so
quietly? Well, then, take that!--and that!--and that! Why, how's
this--the young warmint ain't here arter all! Well, I'm blowed if
that don't beat everythink! What did he go and chuck that water over
me for? What a walloping I'll give him in the morning when it's light!
and now, boy, you may go and sleep on my bed, 'cos it's wet, d'ye see;
and I'll sleep on yourn, 'cos it's dry."

Then he got into Martin's bed, and muttered and grumbled himself to
sleep. Martin came out from under the table, and after dressing
himself with great secrecy crept to the door to make his escape. It
was locked and the key taken away. But he was determined to make his
escape somehow, and not wait to be whipped; so, by and by, he drew
the little deal table close against the wall, and getting on to it
began picking the rushes one by one out of the lower part of the
thatch. After working for half-an-hour, like a mouse eating his way
out of a soft wooden box, he began to see the light coming through
the hole, and in another half hour it was large enough for him to
creep through. When he had got out, he slipped down to the ground,
where the dogs were lying. They seemed very glad to see him, and
began pressing round to lick his face; but he pushed them off, and
ran away over the plain as fast as he could. The stars were shining,
but it was very dark and silent; only in moist places, where the
grass grew tall, he heard the crickets strumming sadly on their
little harps.

At length, tired with running, he coiled himself in a large tussock
of dry grass and went to sleep, just as if he had been accustomed to
sleep out of doors all his life.



CHAPTER V


THE PEOPLE OF THE MIRAGE

In that remote land where Martin was born, with its bright warm
climate and rich soil, no person need go very long hungry--not even
a small boy alone and lost on the great grassy plain. For there is a
little useful plant in that place, with small leaves like clover
leaves and a pretty yellow flower, which bears a wholesome sweet root,
about as big as a pigeon's egg and of a pearly white colour. It is
so well known to the settlers' children in that desert country that
they are always wandering off to the plain to look for it, just as
the children in a town are always running off with their halfpence
to the sweet-stuff shop. This pretty white root is watery, so that
it satisfies both hunger and thirst at the same time. Now when Martin
woke next morning, he found a great many of the little three-leaved
plants growing close to the spot where he had slept, and they
supplied him with a nice sweet breakfast. After he had eaten enough
and had amused himself by rolling over and over several times on the
grass, he started once more on his travels, going towards the
sunrise as fast as he could run. He could run well for a small boy,
but he got tired at last and sat down to rest. Then he jumped up and
went on again at a trot: this pace he kept up very steadily, only
pausing from time to time to watch a flock of small white birds that
followed him all the morning out of curiosity. At length he began to
feel so hot and tired that he could only walk. Still he kept on; he
could see no flowers nor anything pretty in that place--why should
he stay in it? He would go on, and on, and on, in spite of the heat,
until he came to something. But it grew hotter as the day advanced,
and the ground about him more dry and barren and desolate, until at
last he came to ground where there was scarcely a blade of grass: it
was a great, barren, level plain, covered with a slight crust of
salt crystals that glittered in the sun so brightly that it dazzled
and pained his eyesight. Here were no sweet watery roots for
refreshment, and no berries; nor could Martin find a bush to give
him a little shade and protection from the burning noonday sun. He
saw one large dark object in the distance, and mistaking it for a
bush covered with thick foliage he ran towards it; but suddenly it
started up, when he was near, and waving its great grey and white
wings like sails, fled across the plain. It was an ostrich!

Now this hot, shadeless plain seemed to be the very home and
dwelling-place of the False Water. It sparkled and danced all round
him so close that there only appeared to be a small space of dry
ground for him to walk on; only he was always exactly in the centre
of the dry spot; for as he advanced, the glittering whiteness, that
looked so like shiny water, flew mockingly before his steps. But he
hoped to get to it at last, as every time he flagged in the chase
the mysterious figure of the day before appeared again to lure him
still further on. At length, unable to move another step, Martin sat
right down on the bare ground: it was like sitting on the floor of a
heated oven, but there was no help for it, he was so tired. The air
was so thick and heavy that he could hardly breathe, even with his
mouth wide open like a little gasping bird; and the sky looked like
metal, heated to a white heat, and so low down as to make him fancy
that if he were to throw up his hands he would touch it and burn his
fingers.

And the Mirage--oh, how it glistened and quivered here where he had
sat down, half blinding him with its brightness! Now that he could
no longer run after it, nor even walk, it came to him, breaking
round and over him in a thousand fantastic shapes, filling the air
with a million white flakes that whirled about as if driven by a
furious wind, although not a breath was stirring. They looked like
whitest snow-flakes, yet stung his cheeks like sparks of fire. Not
only did he see and feel, he could even _hear_ it now: his ears were
filled with a humming sound, growing louder and louder every minute,
like the noise made by a large colony of bumble-bees when a person
carelessly treads on their nest, and they are angered and thrown
into a great commotion and swarm out to defend their home. Very soon
out of this confused murmur louder, clearer sounds began to rise;
and these could be distinguished as the notes of numberless musical
instruments, and voices of people singing, talking, and laughing.
Then, all at once, there appeared running and skipping over the
ground towards him a great company of girls--scores and hundreds of
them scattered over the plain, exceeding in loveliness all lovely
things that he had ever beheld. Their faces were whiter than lilies,
and their loose, fluttering hair looked like a mist of pale shining
gold; and their skirts, that rustled as they ran, were also shining
like the wings of dragon-flies, and were touched with brown
reflections and changing, beautiful tints, such as are seen on
soap-bubbles. Each of them carried a silver pitcher, and as they ran
and skipped along they dipped their fingers in and sprinkled the
desert with water. The bright drops they scattered fell all around
in a grateful shower, and flew up again from the heated earth in the
form of a white mist touched with rainbow colours, filling the air
with a refreshing coolness.

At Martin's side there grew a small plant, its grey-green leaves
lying wilted on the ground, and one of the girls paused to water it,
and as she sprinkled the drops on it she sang:--


  "Little weed, little weed,
          In such need,
    Must you pain, ask in vain,
          Die for rain,
    Never bloom, never seed,
          Little weed?
    O, no, no, you shall not die,
          From the sky
    With my pitcher down I fly.
          Drink the rain, grow again,
          Bloom and seed,
          Little weed."


Martin held up his hot little hands to catch some of the falling
drops; then the girl, raising her pitcher, poured a stream of cool
water right into his face, and laughing at what she had done, went
away with a hop, skip, and jump after her companions.

The girls with pitchers had all gone, and were succeeded by troops
of boys, just as beautiful, many of them singing and some playing on
wind and stringed instruments; and some were running, others quietly
walking, and still others riding on various animals--ostriches, sheep,
goats, fawns, and small donkeys, all pure white. One boy was riding
on a ram, and as he came by, strum-strumming on a little
silver-stringed banjo, he sang a very curious song, which made Martin
prick up his ears to listen. It was about a speckled snake that
lived far away on a piece of waste ground; how day after day he
sought for his lost playmate--the little boy that had left him; how
he glided this way and that on his smooth, bright belly, winding in
and out among the tall wild sunflowers; how he listened for the dear
footsteps--listened with his green leaf-shaped, little head raised
high among the leaves. But his playmate was far away and came no
more to feed him from his basin of bread and milk, and caress his
cold, smooth coils with his warm, soft, little hand.

Close after the boy on the ram marched four other little boys on foot,
holding up long silver trumpets in readiness to blow. One of them
stopped, and putting his trumpet down close to Martin's ear, puffed
out his little, round cheeks, and blew a blast that made him jump.
Laughing at the joke, they passed on, and were succeeded by others
and still others, singing, shouting, twanging their instruments, and
some of them stopping for a few moments to look at Martin or play
some pretty little trick on him.

But now all at once Martin ceased to listen or even look at them,
for something new and different was coming, something strange which
made him curious and afraid at the same time. It was a sound, very
deep and solemn, of men's voices singing together a song that was
like a dirge and coming nearer and nearer, and it was like the
coming of a storm with wind and rain and thunder. Soon he could see
them marching through the great crowd of people--old men moving in a
slow procession, and they had pale dark faces and their hair and
long beards were whiter than snow, and their long flowing robes were
of the silvery dark colour of a rain-cloud. Then he saw that the
leaders of the procession were followed by others who carried a
couch of mother-o'-pearl resting on their shoulders, that on the
couch reposed a pale sweet-looking youth dressed in silk clothes of
a delicate rose-colour. He also wore crimson shoes, and a
tight-fitting apple-green skull cap, which made his head look very
small. His eyes were ruby-red, and he had a long slender nose like a
snipe's bill, only broad and flattened at the tip. And then Martin
saw that he was wounded, for he had one white hand pressed to his
side and it was stained with blood, and drops of blood were
trickling through his fingers.

He was troubled at the sight, and he gazed at him, and listened to
the words of that solemn song the old men were singing but could not
understand them. Not because he was a child, for no person, however
aged and wise and filled with all learning he might be, could have
understood that strange song about Wonderful Life and Wonderful Death.
Yet there was something in it too which any one who heard it, man or
child, could understand; and he understood it, and it went into his
heart to make it so heavy and sad that he could have put his little
face down on the ground and cried as he had never cried before. But
he did not put his face down and cry, for just then the wounded youth
looked down on him as they carried him past and smiled a very sweet
smile: then Martin felt that he loved him above all the bright and
beautiful beings that had passed before him.

Then, when he was gone from sight; when the solemn sound of the
voices began to grow fainter in the distance like the sound of a
storm when it passes away, his heaviness of heart and sorrow left him,
and he began to listen to the shouts and cries and clanging of noisy
instruments of music swiftly coming nearer and nearer; and then all
round and past him came a vast company of youths and maidens singing
and playing and shouting and dancing as they moved onwards. They
were the most beautiful beings he had ever seen in their shining
dresses, some all in white, others in amber-colour, others in
sky-blue, and some in still other lovely colours. "The Queen! the
Queen!" they were shouting. "Stand up, little boy, and bow to the
Queen."

"The Queen! Kneel to the Queen, little boy," cried others.

Then many others in the company began crying out together, "The Queen!
lie down flat on the ground, little boy."

"The Queen! Shut your eyes and open your mouth, little boy."

"The Queen! Run away as fast as you can, little boy."

"Stand on your head to the Queen, little boy!"

"Crow like a cock and bark like a dog, little boy!"

Trying to obey all these conflicting commands at one and the same
time, poor Martin made strange noises and tumbled about this way and
that and set them all laughing at him.

"The Queen wishes to speak to you--stand up, little boy," said one
of the brightest beings, touching Martin on the cheek.

There before him, surrounded by all that beautiful company, stood
the horses that drew her--great milk-white horses impatiently pawing
the dusty ground with their hoofs and proudly champing their gold
bridles, tossing the white froth from their mouths. But when he
lifted his eyes timidly to the majestic being seated in her chariot
before him he was dazzled and overcome with the sight. Her face had
a brightness that was like that of the Mirage at noon, and the eyes
that gazed on him were like two great opals; she appeared clothed in
a white shining mist, and her hair spread wide on her shoulders
looked white--whiter than a lamb's fleece, and powdered with fine
gold that sparkled and quivered and ran through it like sparks of
yellow fire: and on her head she wore a crown that was like a diamond
seen by candle-light, or like a dewdrop in the sun, and every moment
it changed its colour, and by turns was a red flame, then a green,
then a yellow, then a violet.

[Illustration: ]

"Child, you have followed me far," said the Queen, "and now you are
rewarded, for you have looked on my face and I have refreshed you;
and the Sun, my father, will never more hurt you for my sake."

"He is a naughty boy and unworthy of your goodness," spoke one of
the bright beings standing near. "He killed the spoonbill."

"He cried for the poor slain bird," replied the Queen. "He will
never remember it without grief, and I forgive him."

"He went away from his home and thinks no more of his poor old
father and mother, who cry for him and are seeking for him on the
great plain," continued the voice.

"I forgive him," returned the Queen. "He is such a little
wanderer--he could not always rest at home."

"He emptied a bucketful of water over good old Jacob, who found him
and took him in and fed him, and sang to him, and danced to him, and
was a second father to him."

At that there was great laughter; even the Queen laughed when she
said that she forgave him that too. And Martin when he remembered
old Jacob, and saw that they only made a joke of it, laughed with
them. But the accusing voice still went on:

"And when the good old shepherd went to sleep a second time, then
the naughty little boy climbed on the table and picked a hole in the
thatch and got out and ran away."

Another burst of laughter followed; then a youth in a shining,
violet-coloured dress suddenly began twanging on his instrument and
wildly capering about in imitation of old Jacob's dancing, and while
he played and danced he sang--



  "Ho, sheep whose ways are known to me,
          Both ewe and lamb
          And horned ram
    Wherever can that Martin be?
          All day for him I ride
          Over the plains so wide,
          And on my horn I blow,
          Just to let him know
          That Jacob's on his track,
          And soon will have him back,
          I look and look all day,
          And when I'm home I say:
          He isn't like a mole
          To dig himself a hole;
          Them little legs he's got
          They can't go far, trot, trot,
          They can't go far, run run,
          Oh no, it is his fun;
          I'm sure he's near,
          He must be here
          A-skulking round the house
          Just like a little mouse.
    I'll get a mouse-trap in a minute,
          And bait with cheese that's smelly
          To bring him helter-skelly--
          That little empty belly,
    And then I'll have him in it.
          Where have he hid,
          That little kid,
    That good old Jacob was so kind to?
    And when a rest I am inclined to
    Who'll boil the cow and dig the kittles
    And milk the stockings, darn the wittles?
          Who mugs of tea
          Will drink with me?
          When round and round
          I pound the ground
    With boots of cowhide, boots of thunder,
    Who'll help to make the noise, I wonder?
          Who'll join the row
          Of loud bow-wow
    With din of tin and copper clatter
    With bang and whang of pan and platter?
          O when I find
          Him fast I'll bind
    And upside down I'll hold him;
    And when a-home I gallop late-o
    I'll give him no more cold potato,
    But cuff him, box him, bang him, scold him,
    And drench him with a pail of water,
    And fill his mouth with wool and mortar,
    Because he don't do things he oughter,
      But does the things he ought not to,
           Then tell me true,
           Both ram and ewe,
      Wherever have that Martin got to?
      For Jacob's old and deaf and dim
           And never knowed the ways of him."



"I forgive him everything," said the Queen very graciously, when the
song ended, at which they all laughed. "And now let two of you speak
and each bestow a gift on him. He deserves to be rewarded for
running so far after us."

Then one of those bright beautiful beings came forward and cried out:
"He loves wandering; let him have his will and be a wanderer all his
days on the face of the earth."

"Well spoken!" cried the Queen.

"A wanderer he is to be," said another: "let the sea do him no
harm--that is my gift."

"So be it," said the Queen; "and to your two gifts I shall add a
third. Let all men love him. Go now, Martin, you are well equipped,
and satisfy your heart with the sight of all the strange and
beautiful things the world contains."

"Kneel and thank the Queen for her gifts," said a voice to Martin.

He dropped on to his knees, but could speak no word; when he raised
his eyes again the whole glorious company had vanished.

[Illustration: ]

The air was cool and fragrant, the earth moist as if a shower had
just fallen. He got up and slowly walked onward until near sunset,
thinking of nothing but the beautiful people of the Mirage. He had
left the barren salt plain behind by now; the earth was covered with
yellow grass, and he found and ate some sweet roots and berries.
Then feeling very tired, he stretched himself out on his back and
began to wonder if what he had seen was nothing but a dream. Yes, it
was surely a dream, but then--in his life dreams and realities were
so mixed--how was he always to know one from the other? Which was
most strange, the Mirage that glittered and quivered round him and
flew mockingly before him, or the people of the Mirage he had seen?

If you are lying quite still with your eyes shut and some one comes
softly up and stands over you, somehow you know it, and open your
eyes to see who it is. Just in that way Martin knew that some one
had come and was standing over him. Still he kept his eyes shut,
feeling sure that it was one of those bright and beautiful beings he
had lately seen, perhaps the Queen herself, and that the sight of
her shining countenance would dazzle his eyes. Then all at once he
thought that it might be old Jacob, who would punish him for running
away. He opened his eyes very quickly then. What do you think he saw?
An ostrich--that same big ostrich he had seen and startled early in
the day! It was standing over him, staring down with its great
vacant eyes. Gradually its head came lower and lower down, until at
last it made a sudden peck at a metal button on his jacket, and gave
such a vigorous tug at it that Martin was almost lifted off the
ground. He screamed and gave a jump; but it was nothing to the jump
the ostrich gave when he discovered that the button belonged to a
living boy. He jumped six feet high into the air and came down with
a great flop; then feeling rather ashamed of himself for being
frightened at such an insignificant thing as Martin, he stalked
majestically away, glancing back, first over one shoulder then the
other, and kicking up his heels behind him in a somewhat disdainful
manner.

Martin laughed, and in the middle of his laugh he fell asleep.



CHAPTER VI


MARTIN MEETS WITH SAVAGES

When, on waking next morning, Martin took his first peep over the
grass, there, directly before him, loomed the great blue hills, or
Sierras as they are called in that country. He had often seen them,
long ago in his distant home on clear mornings, when they had
appeared like a blue cloud on the horizon. He had even wished to get
to them, to tread their beautiful blue summits that looked as if
they would be soft to his feet--softer than the moist springy turf
on the plain; but he wished it only as one wishes to get to some
far-off impossible place--a white cloud, for instance, or the blue
sky itself. Now all at once he unexpectedly found himself near them,
and the sight fired him with a new desire. The level plain had
nothing half so enchanting as the cloud-like blue airy hills, and
very soon he was up on his feet and hurrying towards them. In spite
of hurrying he did not seem to get any nearer; still it was pleasant
to be always going on and on, knowing that he would get to them at
last. He had now left the drier plains behind; the earth was clothed
with green and yellow grass easy to the feet, and during the day he
found many sweet roots to refresh him. He also found quantities of
cam-berries, a round fruit a little less than a cherry in size,
bright yellow in colour, and each berry inside a green case or
sheath shaped like a heart. They were very sweet. At night he slept
once more in the long grass, and when daylight returned he travelled
on, feeling very happy there alone--happy to think that he would get
to the beautiful hills at last. But only in the early morning would
they look distinct and near; later in the day, when the sun grew hot,
they would seem further off, like a cloud resting on the earth,
which made him think sometimes that they moved on as he went towards
them.

On the third day he came to a high piece of ground; and when he got
to the top and looked over to the other side he saw a broad green
valley with a stream of water running in it: on one hand the valley
with its gleaming water stretched away as far as he could see, or
until it lost itself in the distant haze; but on the other hand, on
looking up the valley, there appeared a great forest, looking blue
in the distance; and this was the first forest Martin had ever seen.
Close by, down in the green valley before him, there was something
else to attract his attention, and this was a large group of men and
horses. No sooner had he caught sight of them than he set off at a
run towards them, greatly excited; and as he drew near they all rose
up from the grass where they had been sitting or lying to stare at
him, filled with wonder at the sight of that small boy alone in the
desert. There were about twenty men and women, and several children;
the men were very big and tall, and were dressed only in robes made
of the skins of some wild animal; they had broad, flat faces, and
dark copper-coloured skins, and their long black hair hung down
loose on their backs.

These strange, rude-looking people were savages, and are supposed to
be cruel and wicked, and to take pleasure in torturing and killing
any lost or stray person that falls into their hands; but indeed it
is not so, as you shall shortly find. Poor ignorant little Martin,
who had never read a book in his life, having always refused to
learn his letters, knew nothing about savages, and feared them no
more than he had feared old Jacob, or the small spotted snake, the
very sight of which had made grown-up people scream and run away. So
he marched boldly up and stared at them, and they in turn stared at
him out of their great, dark, savage eyes.

[Illustration: ]

They had just been eating their supper of deer's flesh, roasted on
the coals, and after a time one of the savages, as an experiment,
took up a bone of meat and offered it to him. Being very hungry he
gladly took it, and began gnawing the meat off the bone.

When he had satisfied his hunger, he began to look round him, still
stared at by the others. Then one of the women, who had a
good-humoured face, caught him up, and seating him on her knees,
tried to talk to him.

"Melu-melumia quiltahou papa shani cha silmata," she spoke, gazing
very earnestly into his face.

They had all been talking among themselves while he was eating; but
he did not know that savages had a language of their own different
from ours, and so thought that they had only been amusing themselves
with a kind of nonsense talk, which meant nothing. Now when the
woman addressed this funny kind of talk to him, he answered her in
her own way, as he imagined, readily enough: "Hey diddle-diddle, the
cat's in the fiddle, fe fo fi fum, chumpty-chumpty-chum, with bings
on her ringers, and tells on her boes."

They all listened with grave attention, as if he had said something
very important. Then the woman continued: "Huanatopa ana ana
quiltahou."

To which Martin answered, "Theophilus Thistle, the thistle-sifter,
sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles; and if Theophilus--oh, I won't
say any more!"

Then she said, "Quira-holata silhoa mari changa changa."

"Cock-a-doodle-do!" cried Martin, getting tired and impatient.
"Baa, baa, black sheep, bow, wow, wow; goosey, goosey gander; see-saw,
Mary Daw; chick-a-dee-dee, will you listen to me. And now let me go!"

But she held him fast and kept on talking her nonsense language to
him, until becoming vexed he caught hold of her hair and pulled it.
She only laughed and tossed him up into the air and caught him again,
just as he might have tossed and caught a small kitten. At length
she released him, for now they were all beginning to lie down by the
fire to sleep, as it was getting dark; Martin being very tired
settled himself down among them, and as one of the women threw a
skin over him he slept very comfortably.

Next morning the hills looked nearer than ever just across the river;
but little he cared for hills now, and when the little savage
children went out to hunt for berries and sweet roots he followed
and spent the day agreeably enough in their company.

On the afternoon of the second day his new playfellows all threw off
their little skin cloaks and plunged into the stream to bathe; and
Martin, seeing how much they seemed to enjoy being in the water,
undressed himself and went in after them. The water was not too deep
in that place, and as it was rare fun splashing about and trying to
keep his legs in the swift current and clambering over slippery rocks,
he went out some distance from the bank. All at once he discovered
that the others had left him, and looking back he saw that they were
all scrambling out on to the bank and fighting over his clothes.
Back he dashed in haste to rescue his property, but by the time he
reached the spot they had finished dividing the spoil, and jumping
up they ran away and scattered in all directions, one wearing his
jacket, another his knickerbockers, another his shirt and one sock,
another his cap and shoes, and the last the one remaining sock only.
In vain he pursued and called after them; and at last he was
compelled to follow them unclothed to the camping ground, where he
presented himself crying piteously; but the women who had been so
kind to him would not help him now, and only laughed to see how
white his skin looked by contrast with the dark copper-coloured skins
of the other children. At length one of them compassionately gave
him a small soft-furred skin of some wild animal, and fastened it on
him like a cloak; and this he was compelled to wear with shame and
grief, feeling very strange and uncomfortable in it. But the feeling
of discomfort in that new savage dress was nothing to the sense of
injury that stung him, and in his secret heart he was determined not
to lose his own clothes.

When the children went out next day he followed them, watching and
waiting for a chance to recover anything that belonged to him; and
at last, seeing the little boy who wore his cap off his guard, he
made a sudden rush, and snatching it off the young savage's head,
put it firmly upon his own. But the little savage now regarded that
cap as his very own: he had taken it by force or stratagem, and had
worn it on his head since the day before, and that made it his
property; and so at Martin he went, and they fought stoutly together,
and being nearly of a size, he could not conquer the little white boy.
Then he cried out to the others to help him, and they came and
overthrew Martin, and deprived him not only of his cap, but of his
little skin cloak as well, and then punished him until he screamed
aloud with pain. Leaving him crying on the ground, they ran back to
the camp. He followed shortly afterwards, but got no sympathy, for,
as a rule, grown-up savages do not trouble themselves very much about
these little matters: they leave their children to settle their own
disputes.

During the rest of that day Martin sulked by himself behind a great
tussock of grass, refusing to eat with the others, and when one of
the women went to him and offered him a piece of meat he struck it
vindictively out of her hand. She only laughed a little and left him.

Now when the sun was setting, and he was beginning to feel very cold
and miserable in his nakedness, the men were seen returning from the
hunt; but instead of riding slowly to the camp as on other days,
they came riding furiously and shouting. The moment they were seen
and their shouts heard the women jumped up and began hastily packing
the skins and all their belongings into bundles; and in less than
ten minutes the whole company was mounted on horseback and ready for
flight. One of the men picked Martin up and placed him on the
horse's back before him, and then they all started at a swift canter
up the valley towards that great blue forest in the distance.

In about an hour they came to it: it was then quite dark, the sky
powdered with numberless stars; but when they got among the trees
the blue, dusky sky and brilliant stars disappeared from sight, as
if a black cloud had come over them, so dark was it in the forest.
For the trees were very tall and mingled their branches overhead;
but they had got into a narrow path known to them, and moving slowly
in single file, they kept on for about two hours longer, then
stopped and dismounted under the great trees, and lying down all
close together, went to sleep. Martin, lying among them, crept under
the edge of one of the large skin robes and, feeling warm, he soon
fell fast asleep and did not wake till daylight.

[Illustration: ]



CHAPTER VII


ALONE IN THE GREAT FOREST

Imagine to yourself one accustomed to live in the great treeless
plain, accustomed to open his eyes each morning to the wide blue sky
and the brilliant sunlight, now for the first time opening them in
that vast gloomy forest, where neither wind nor sunlight came, and
no sound was heard, and twilight lasted all day long! All round him
were trees with straight, tall grey trunks, and behind and beyond
them yet other trees--trees everywhere that stood motionless like
pillars of stone supporting the dim green roof of foliage far above.
It was like a vast gloomy prison in which he had been shut, and he
longed to make his escape to where he could see the rising sun and
feel the fanning wind on his cheeks. He looked round at the others:
they were all stretched on the ground still in a deep sleep, and it
frightened him a little to look at their great, broad, dark faces
framed in masses of black hair. He felt that he hated them, for they
had treated him badly: the children had taken his clothes, compelling
him to go naked, and had beaten and bruised him, and he had not been
pitied and helped by their elders. By and by, very quietly and
cautiously he crept away from among them, and made his escape into
the gloomy wood. On one side the forest shadows looked less dark
than the other, and on that side he went, for it was the side on
which the sun rose, and the direction he had been travelling when he
first met with the savages. On and on he went, over the thick bed of
dark decaying leaves, which made no rustling sound, looking like a
little white ghost of a boy in that great gloomy wood. But he came
to no open place, nor did he find anything to eat when hunger
pressed him; for there were no sweet roots and berries there, nor any
plant that he had ever seen before. It was all strange and gloomy,
and very silent. Not a leaf trembled; for if one had trembled near
him he would have heard it whisper in that profound stillness that
made him hold his breath to listen. But sometimes at long intervals
the silence would be broken by a sound that made him start and stand
still and wonder what had caused it. For the rare sounds in the
forest were unlike any sounds he had heard before. Three or four
times during the day a burst of loud, hollow, confused laughter
sounded high up among the trees; but he saw nothing, although most
likely the creature that had laughed saw him plainly enough from its
hiding-place in the deep shadows as it ran up the trunks of the trees.

[Illustration: ]

At length he came to a river about thirty or forty yards wide;
and this was the same river that he had bathed in many leagues
further down in the open valley. It is called by the savages
Co-viota-co-chamanga, which means that it runs partly in the dark
and partly in the light. Here it was in the dark. The trees grew
thick and tall on its banks, and their wide branches met and
intermingled above its waters that flowed on without a ripple, black
to the eye as a river of ink. How strange it seemed when, holding on
to a twig, he bent over and saw himself reflected--a white, naked
child with a scared face--in that black mirror! Overcome by thirst,
he ventured to creep down and dip his hand in the stream, and was
astonished to see that the black water looked as clear as crystal in
his hollow hand. After quenching his thirst he went on, following
the river now, for it had made him turn aside; but after walking for
an hour or more he came to a great tree that had fallen across the
stream, and climbing on to the slippery trunk, he crept cautiously
over and then went gladly on in the old direction.

Now, after he had crossed the river and walked a long distance, he
came to a more open part; but though it was nice to feel the
sunshine on him again, the underwood and grass and creepers trailing
over the ground made it difficult and tiring to walk, and in this
place a curious thing happened. Picking his way through the tangled
herbage, an animal his footsteps had startled scuttled away in great
fear, and as it went he caught a glimpse of it. It was a kind of
weasel, but very large--larger than a big tom-cat, and all over as
black as the blackest cat. Looking down he discovered that this
strange animal had been feasting on eggs. The eggs were nearly as
large as fowls', of a deep green colour, with polished shells. There
had been about a dozen in the nest, which was only a small hollow in
the ground lined with dry grass, but most of them had been broken,
and the contents devoured by the weasel. Only two remained entire,
and these he took, and tempted by his hunger, soon broke the shells
at the small end and sucked them clean. They were raw, but never had
eggs, boiled, fried, or poached, tasted so nice before! He had
just finished his meal, and was wishing that a third egg had remained
in the ruined nest, when a slight sound like the buzzing of an insect
made him look round, and there, within a few feet of him, was the big
black weasel once more, looking strangely bold and savage-tempered.
It kept staring fixedly at Martin out of its small, wicked, beady
black eyes, and snarling so as to show its white sharp teeth;
and very white they looked by contrast with the black lips, and
nose, and hair. Martin stared back at it, but it kept moving and
coming nearer, now sitting straight up, then dropping its fore-feet
and gathering its legs in a bunch as if about to spring, and finally
stretching itself straight out towards him again, its round flat
head and long smooth body making it look like a great black snake
crawling towards him. And all the time it kept on snarling and
clicking its sharp teeth and uttering its low, buzzing growl. Martin
grew more and more afraid, it looked so strong and angry, so
unspeakably fierce. The creature looked as if he was speaking to
Martin, saying something very easy to understand, and very dreadful
to hear. This is what it seemed to be saying:--

"Ha, you came on me unawares, and startled me away from the nest I
found! You have eaten the last two eggs; and I found them, and they
were mine! Must I go hungry for you--starveling, robber! A miserable
little boy alone and lost in the forest, naked, all scratched and
bleeding with thorns, with no courage in his heart, no strength in
his hands! Look at me! I am not weak, but strong and black and fierce;
I live here--this is my home; I fear nothing; I am like a serpent,
and like brass and tempered steel--nothing can bruise or break me:
my teeth are like fine daggers; when I strike them into the flesh of
any creature I never loose my hold till I have sucked out all the
blood in his heart. But you, weak little wretch, I hate you! I
thirst for your blood for stealing my food from me! What can you do
to save yourself? Down, down on the ground, chicken-heart, where I
can get hold of you! You shall pay me for the eggs with your life! I
shall hold you fast by the throat, and drink and drink until I see
your glassy eyes close, and your cheeks turn whiter than ashes, and
I feel your heart flutter like a leaf in your bosom! Down, down!"

It was terrible to watch him and seem to hear such words. He was
nearer now--scarcely a yard away, still with his beady glaring eyes
fixed on Martin's face: and Martin was powerless to fly from
him--powerless even to stir a step or to lift a hand. His heart
jumped so that it choked him, his hair stood up on his head, and he
trembled so that he was ready to fall. And at last, when about to
fall to the ground, in the extremity of his terror, he uttered a
great scream of despair; and the sudden scream so startled the weasel,
that he jumped up and scuttled away as fast as he could through the
creepers and bushes, making a great rustling over the dead leaves
and twigs; and Martin, recovering his strength, listened to that
retreating sound as it passed away into the deep shadows, until it
ceased altogether.



CHAPTER VIII


THE FLOWER AND THE SERPENT

His escape from the horrible black animal made Martin quite happy,
in spite of hunger and fatigue, and he pushed on as bravely as ever.
But it was slow going and very difficult, even painful in places, on
account of the rough thorny undergrowth, where he had to push and
crawl through the close bushes, and tread on ground littered with old
dead prickly leaves and dead thorny twigs. After going on for about
an hour in this way, he came to a stream, a branch of the river he
had left, and much shallower, so that he could easily cross from
side to side, and he could also see the bright pebbles under the
clear swift current. The stream appeared to run from the east, the
way he wished to travel towards the hills, so that he could keep by
it, which he wras glad enough to do, as it was nice to get a drink
of water whenever he felt thirsty, and to refresh his tired and sore
little feet in the stream.

Following this water he came before very long to a place in the
forest where there was little or no underwood, but only low trees
and bushes scattered about, and all the ground moist and very green
and fresh like a water-meadow. It was indeed pleasant to feel his
feet on the soft carpet of grass, and stooping, he put his hands
down on it, and finally lying down he rolled on it so as to have the
nice sensation of the warm soft grass all over his body. So
agreeable was it lying and rolling about in that open green place
with the sweet sunshine on him, that he felt no inclination to get up
and travel on. It was so sweet to rest after all his strivings and
sufferings in that great dark forest! So sweet was it that he pretty
soon fell asleep, and no doubt slept a long time, for when he woke,
the sun, which had been over his head, was now far down in the west.
It was very still, and the air warm and fragrant at that hour, with
the sun shining through the higher branches of the trees on the
green turf where he was lying. How green it was--the grass, the trees,
every tiny blade and every leaf was like a piece of emerald green
glass with the sun shining through it! So wonderful did it seem to
him--the intense greenness, the brilliant sunbeams that shone into
his eyes, and seemed to fill him with brightness, and the stillness
of the forest, that he sat up and stared about him. What did it
mean--that brightness and stillness?

Then, at a little distance away, he caught sight of something on a
tree of a shining golden yellow colour. Jumping up he ran to the tree,
and found that it was half overgrown with a very beautiful climbing
plant, with leaves divided like the fingers of a hand, and large
flowers and fruit, both green and ripe. The ripe fruit was as big as
a duck's egg, and the same shape, and of a shining yellow colour.
Reaching up his hand he began to feel the smooth lovely fruit, when,
being very ripe, it came off its stem into his hand. It smelt very
nice, and then, in his hunger, he bit through the smooth rind with
his teeth, and it tasted as nice as it looked. He quickly ate it,
and then pulled another and ate that, and then another, and still
others, until he could eat no more. He had not had so delicious a
meal for many a long day.

Not until he had eaten his fill did Martin begin to look closely at
the flowers on the plant. It was the passion-flower, and he had
never seen it before, and now that he looked well at it he thought
it the loveliest and strangest flower he had ever beheld; not
brilliant and shining, jewel-like, in the sun, like the scarlet
verbena of the plains, or some yellow flower, but pale and misty,
the petals being of a dim greenish cream-colour, with a large blue
circle in the centre; and the blue, too, was misty like the blue
haze in the distance on a summer day. To see and admire it better he
reached out his hand and tried to pluck one of the flowers; then in
an instant he dropped his hand, as if he had been pricked by a thorn.
But there was no thorn and nothing to hurt him; he dropped his hand
only because he felt that he had hurt the flower. Moving a step back
he stared at it, and the flower seemed like a thing alive that
looked back at him, and asked him why he had hurt it.

"O, poor flower!" said Martin, and, coming closer he touched it
gently with his finger-tips; and then, standing on tiptoe, he
touched its petals with his lips, just as his mother had often and
often kissed his little hand when he had bruised it or pricked it
with a thorn.

Then, while still standing by the plant, on bringing his eyes down
to the ground he spied a great snake lying coiled up on a bed of
moss on the sunny side of the same tree where the plant was growing.
He remembered the dear little snake he had once made a friend of,
and he did not feel afraid, for he thought that all snakes must be
friendly towards him, although this was a very big one, thicker than
his arm and of a different colour. It was a pale olive-green, like
the half-dry moss it was lying on, with a pattern of black and brown
mottling along its back. It was lying coiled round and round, with
its flat arrow-shaped head resting on its coils, and its round
bright eyes fixed on Martin's face. The sun shining on its eyes made
them glint like polished jewels or pieces of glass, and when Martin
moved nearer and stood still, or when he drew back and went to this
side or that, those brilliant glinting eyes were still on his face,
and it began to trouble him, until at last he covered his face with
his hands. Then he opened his fingers enough to peep through them,
and still those glittering eyes were fixed on him.

[Illustration: ]

Martin wondered if the snake was vexed with him for coming there,
and why it watched him so steadily with those shining eyes.
"Will you please look some other way?" he said at last, but the
snake would not, and so he turned from it, and then it seemed to him
that everything was alive and watching him in the same intent
way--the passion-flowers, the green leaves, the grass, the trees,
the wide sky, the great shining sun. He listened, and there was no
sound in the wood, not even the hum of a fly or wild bee, and it was
so still that not a leaf moved. Finally he moved away from that spot,
but treading very softly, and holding his breath to listen, for it
seemed to him that the forest had something to tell him, and that if
he listened he would hear the leaves speaking to him. And by-and-by
he did hear a sound: it came from a spot about a hundred yards away,
and was like the sound of a person crying. Then came low sobs which
rose and fell and then ceased, and after a silent interval began
again. Perhaps it was a child, lost there in the forest like himself.
Going softly to the spot he discovered that the sobbing sounds came
from the other side of a low tree with widespread branches, a kind
of acacia with thin loose foliage, but he could not see through it,
and so he went round the tree to look, and startled a dove which flew
off with a loud clatter of its wings.

When the dove had flown away it was again very silent. What was he
to do? He was too tired now to walk much farther, and the sun was
getting low, so that all the ground was in shadow. He went on a
little way looking for some nice shelter where he could pass the
night, but could not find one. At length, when the sun had set and
the dark was coming, he came upon an old half-dead tree, where there
was a hollow at the roots, lined with half dry moss, very soft to
his foot, and it seemed a nice place to sleep in. But he had no
choice, for he was afraid of going further in the dark among the
trees; and so, creeping into the hollow among the old roots, he
curled himself up as comfortably as he could, and soon began to get
very drowsy, in spite of having no covering to keep him warm. But
although very tired and sleepy, he did not go quite to sleep, for he
had never been all alone in a wood by night before, and it was
different from the open plain where he could see all round, even at
night, and where he had feared nothing. Here the trees looked strange
and made strange black shadows, and he thought that the strange
people of the wood were perhaps now roaming about and would find him
there. He did not want them to find him fast asleep; it was better
to be awake, so that when they came he could jump up and run away
and hide himself from them. Once or twice a slight rustling sound
made him start and think that at last some one was coming to him,
stealing softly so as to catch him unawares, but he could see
nothing moving, and when he held his breath to listen there was no
sound.

[Illustration: ]

Then all at once, just when he had almost dropped off, a great cry
sounded at a distance, and made him start up wide awake again.
"O look! look! look!" cried the voice in a tone so deep and strange
and powerful that no one could have heard it without terror, for it
seemed to be uttered by some forest monster twenty times bigger than
an ordinary man. In a moment an answer came from another part of the
wood. "What's that?" cried the answering voice; and then another
voice cried, and then others far and near, all shouting "What's that?"
and for only answer the first voice shouted once more, "O look! look!
look!"

Poor Martin, trembling with fright, crouched lower down in his mossy
bed, thinking that the awful people of the forest must have seen him,
and would be upon him in a few moments. But though he stared with
wide-open eyes into the gloom he could see nothing but the trees,
standing silent and motionless, and no sound of approaching
footsteps could he hear.

After that it was silent again for a while, and he began to hope
that they had given up looking for him; when suddenly, close by,
sounded a loud startling "Who's that?" and he gave himself up for
lost. For he was too terrified to jump up and run away, as he had
thought to do: he could only lie still, his teeth chattering, his
hair standing up on his head. "Who's that?" exclaimed the terrible
voice once more, and then he saw a big black shape drop down from
the tree above and settle on a dead branch a few feet above his
hiding-place. It was a bird--a great owl, for now he could see it,
sharply outlined against the clear starry sky; and the bird had seen
and was peering curiously at him. And now all his fear was gone, for
he could not be afraid of an owl; he had been accustomed to see owls
all his life, only they were small, and this owl of the forest was
as big as an eagle, and had a round head and ears like a cat, and
great cat-like eyes that shone in the dark.

The owl kept staring at Martin for some time, swaying his body this
way and that, and lowering then raising his head so as to get a
better view. And Martin, on his side, stared back at the owl, and at
last he exclaimed, "O what a great big owl you are! Please say
_Who's that_? again."

But before the owl said anything Martin was fast asleep in his mossy
bed.



CHAPTER IX


THE BLACK PEOPLE OF THE SKY

Whether or not the great owl went on shouting _O look! look! look_!
and asking _What's that_? and _Who's that_? all night, Martin did
not know. He was fast asleep until the morning sun shone on his face
and woke him, and as he had no clothes and shoes to put on he was
soon up and out. First he took a drink of water, then, feeling very
hungry he went back to the place where he had found the ripe fruit
and made a very good breakfast. After that he set out once more
through the wood towards sunrise, still following the stream. Before
long the wood became still more open, and at last to his great joy
he found that he had got clear of it, and was once more on the great
open plain. And now the hills were once more in sight--those great
blue hills where he wished to be, looking nearer and larger than
before, but they still looked blue like great banks of cloud and
were a long distance away. But he was determined to get to them, to
climb up their steep sides, and by and by when he found the stream
bent away to the south, he left it so as to go on straight as he
could to the hills. Away from the water-side the ground was higher,
and very flat and covered with dry yellow grass. Over this yellow
plain he walked for hours, resting at times, but finding no water
and no sweet roots to quench his thirst, until he was too tired to
walk any further, and so he sat down on the dry grass under that
wide blue sky. There was not a cloud on it--nothing but the great
globe of the sun above him; and there was no wind and no motion in
the yellow grass blades, and no sight or sound of any living creature.

Martin lying on his back gazed up at the blue sky, keeping his eyes
from the sun, which was too bright for them, and after a time he did
see something moving--a small black spot no bigger than a fly moving
in a circle. But he knew it was something big, but at so great a
height from the earth as to look like a fly. And then he caught
sight of a second black speck, then another and another, until he
could make out a dozen or twenty, or more, all moving in wide
circles at that vast height.

Martin thought they must be the black people of the sky; he wondered
why they were black and not white, like white birds, or blue, and of
other brilliant colours like the people of the Mirage.

Now it was impossible for Martin to lie like that, following those
small black spots on the hot blue sky as they wheeled round and
round continuously, without giving his eyes a little rest by
shutting them at intervals. By-and-by he kept them shut a little too
long; he fell asleep, and when he woke he didn't wake fully in a
moment; he remained lying motionless just as before, with eyes still
closed, but the lids just raised enough to enable him to see about
him. And the sight that met his eyes was very curious. He was no
longer alone in that solitary place. There were people all round him,
dozens and scores of little black men about two feet in height, of a
very singular appearance. They had bald heads and thin hatchet faces,
wrinkled and warty, and long noses; and they all wore black silk
clothes--coat, waistcoat and knickerbockers, but without shoes and
stockings; their thin black legs and feet were bare; nor did they
have anything on their bald heads. They were gathered round Martin
in a circle, but a very wide circle quite twenty to thirty feet away
from him, and some were walking about, others standing alone or in
groups, talking together, and all looking at Martin. Only one who
appeared to be the most important person of the company kept inside
the circle, and whenever one or more of the others came forward a
few steps he held up his hand and begged them to go back a little.

"We must not be in a hurry," he said. "We must wait."

"Wait for what?" asked one.

"For what may happen," said the important one. "I must ask you again
to leave it to me to decide when it is time to begin." Then he
strutted up and down in the open space, turning now towards his
fellows and again to Martin, moving his head about to get a better
sight of his face. Then, putting his hand down between his coat and
waistcoat he drew out a knife with a long shining blade, and holding
it from him looked attentively at it. By and by he breathed gently
on the bright blade, then pulling out a black silk pocket
handkerchief wiped off the stain of his breath, and turning the
blade about made it glitter in the sun. Then he put it back under
his coat and resumed his walk up and down.

"We are getting very hungry," said one of the others at length.

"Very hungry indeed!" cried another. "Some of us have not tasted
food these three days."

"It certainly does seem hard," said yet another, "to see our dinner
before us and not be allowed to touch it."

"Not so fast, my friends, I beg," exclaimed the man with the knife.
"I have already explained the case, and I do think you are a little
unfair in pressing me as you do."

Thus rebuked they consulted together, then one of them spoke.
"If, sir, you consider us unfair, or that we have not full
confidence in you, would it not be as well to get some other person
to take your place?"

"Yes, I am ready to do that," returned the important one promptly;
and here, drawing forth the knife once more, he held it out towards
them. But instead of coming forward to take it they all recoiled
some steps, showing considerable alarm. And then they all began
protesting that they were not complaining of him, that they were
satisfied with their choice, and could not have put the matter in
abler hands.

"I am pleased at your good opinion," said the important one.
"I may tell you that I am no chicken. I first saw the light in
September, 1739, and, as you know, we are now within seven months
and thirteen days of the end of the first decade of the second half
of the nineteenth century. You may infer from this that I have had a
pretty extensive experience, and I promise you that when I come to
cut the body up you will not be able to say that I have made an
unfair distribution, or that any one has been left without his
portion."

[Illustration: ]

All murmured approval, and then one of the company asked if he would
be allowed to bespeak the liver for his share.

"No, sir, certainly not," replied the other. "Such matters must be
left to my discretion entirely, and I must also remind you that
there is such a thing as the _carver's privilege_, and it is
possible that in this instance he may think fit to retain the liver
for his own consumption."

After thus asserting himself he began to examine the blade of his
knife which he still held in his hand, and to breathe gently on it,
and wipe it with his handkerchief to make it shine brighter in the
sun. Finally, raising his arm, he flourished it and then made two or
three stabs and lunges in the air, then walking on tiptoe he
adyanced to Martin lying so still on the yellow grass in the midst
of that black-robed company, the hot sun shining on his naked white
body.

The others all immediately pressed forward, craning their necks and
looking highly excited: they were expecting great things; but when
the man with a knife had got quite close to Martin he was seized
with fear and made two or three long jumps back to where the others
were; and then, recovering from his alarm, he quietly put back the
knife under his coat.

"We really thought you were going to begin," said one of the crowd.

"Oh no; no indeed; not just yet," said the other.

"It is very disappointing," remarked one.

The man with the knife turned on him and replied with dignity,
"I am really surprised at such a remark after all I have said on the
subject. I do wish you would consider the circumstances of the case.
They are peculiar, for this person--this Martin--is not an ordinary
person. We have been keeping our eyes on him for some time past, and
have witnessed some remarkable actions on his part, to put it mildly.
Let us keep in mind the boldness, the resource, the dangerous
violence he has displayed on so many occasions since he took to his
present vagabond way of life."

"It appears to me," said one of the others, "that if Martin is dead
we need not concern ourselves about his character and desperate
deeds in the past."

"_If_ he is dead!" exclaimed the other sharply. "That is the very
point,--_is_ he dead? Can you confidently say that he is not in a
sound sleep, or in a dead faint, or shamming and ready at the first
touch of the knife to leap up and seize his assailant--I mean his
carver--by the throat and perhaps murder him as he once murdered a
spoonbill?"

"That would be very dreadful," said one.

"But surely," said another, "there are means of telling whether a
person is dead or not? One simple and effectual method, which I have
heard, is to place a hand over the heart to feel if it still beats."

"Yes, I know, I have also heard of that plan. Very simple, as you say;
but who is to try it? I invite the person who makes the suggestion
to put it in practice."

"With pleasure," said the other, coming forward with a tripping gait
and an air of not being in the least afraid. But on coming near the
supposed corpse he paused to look round at the others, then pulling
out his black silk handkerchief he wiped his black wrinkled forehead
and bald head. "Whew!" he exclaimed, "it's very hot to-day."

"I don't find it so," said the man with the knife. "It is sometimes
a matter of nerves."

It was not a very nice remark, but it had the effect of bracing the
other up, and moving forward a little more he began anxiously
scrutinizing Martin's face. The others now began to press forward,
but were warned by the man with a knife not to come too near. Then
the bold person who had undertaken to feel Martin's heart doubled
back the silk sleeve of his coat, and after some further preparation
extended his arm and made two or three preliminary passes with his
trembling hand at a distance of a foot or so from the breast of the
corpse. Then he approached it a little nearer, but before it came to
the touching point a sudden fear made him start back.

"What is it? What did you see?" cried the others.

"I'm not sure there wasn't a twitch of the eyelid," he replied.

"Never mind the eyelid--feel his heart," said one.

"That's all very well," he returned, "but how would you like it
yourself? Will _you_ come and do it?"

"No, no!" they all cried. "You have undertaken this, and must go
through with it."

Thus encouraged, he once more turned to the corpse, and again
anxiously began to examine the face. Now Martin had been watching
them through the slits of his not quite closed eyes all the time,
and listening to their talk. Being hungry himself he could not help
feeling for them, and not thinking that it would hurt him to be cut
up in pieces and devoured, he had begun to wish that they would
really begin on him. He was both amused and annoyed at their
nervousness, and at last opening wide his eyes very suddenly he cried,
"Feel my heart!"

It was as if a gun had been fired among them; for a moment they were
struck still with terror, and then all together turned and fled,
going away with three very long hops, and then opening wide their
great wings they launched themselves on the air.

For they were not little black men in black silk clothes as it had
seemed, but vultures--those great, high-soaring, black-plumaged
birds which he had watched circling in the sky, looking no bigger
than bees or flies at that vast distance above the earth. And when
he was watching them they were watching him, and after he had fallen
asleep they continued moving round and round in the sky for hours,
and seeing him lying so still on the plain they at last imagined
that he was dead, and one by one they closed or half-closed their
wings and dropped, gliding downwards, growing larger in appearance
as they neared the ground, until the small black spots no bigger
than flies were seen to be great black birds as big as turkeys.

But you see Martin was not dead after all, and so they had to go
away without their dinner.



CHAPTER X


A TROOP OF WILD HORSES

It seemed so lonely to Martin when the vultures had gone up out of
sight in the sky, so silent and solitary on that immense level plain,
that he could not help wishing them back for the sake of company.
They were an amusing people when they were walking round him,
conversing together, and trying without coming too near to discover
whether he was dead or only sleeping.

All that day it was just as lonely, for though he went on as far as
he could before night, he was still on that great level plain of dry
yellow grass which appeared to have no end, and the blue hills
looked no nearer than when he had started in the morning. He was
hungry and thirsty that evening, and very cold too when he nestled
down on the ground with nothing to cover him but the little heap of
dry grass he had gathered for his bed.

It was better next day, for after walking two or three hours he came
to the end of that yellow plain to higher ground, where the earth
was sandy and barren, with a few scattered bushes growing on it--dark,
prickly bushes like butcher's broom. When he got to the highest part
of this barren ground he saw a green valley beyond, stretching away
as far as he could see on either hand. But it was nice to see a
green place again, and going down into the valley he managed to find
some sweet roots to stay his hunger and thirst; then, after a rest,
he went on again, and when he got to the top of the high ground
beyond the valley, he saw another valley before him, just like the
one he had left behind. Again he rested in that green place, and
then slowly went up the high land beyond, where it was barren and
sandy with the dark stiff prickly bushes growing here and there, and
when he got to the top he looked down, and behold! there was yet
another green valley stretching away to the right and left as far as
he could see.

Would they never end--these high barren ridges and the long green
valleys between!

When he toiled slowly up out of this last green resting-place it was
growing late in the day, and he was very tired. Then he came to the
top of another ridge like the others, only higher and more barren,
and when he could see the country beyond, lo! another valley,
greener and broader than those he had left behind, and a river
flowing in it, looking like a band of silver lying along the green
earth--a river too broad for him to cross, stretching away north and
south as far as he could see. How then should he ever be able to get
to the hills, still far, far away beyond that water?

Martin stared at the scene before him for some time; then, feeling
very tired and weak, he sat down on the sandy ground beside a scanty
dark bush. Tears came to his eyes: he felt them running down his
cheeks; and all at once he remembered how long before when his
wandering began, he had dropped a tear, and a small dusty beetle had
refreshed himself by drinking it. He bent down and let a tear drop,
and watched it as it sank into the ground, but no small beetle came
out to drink it, and he felt more lonely and miserable than ever. He
began to think of all the queer creatures and people he had met in
the desert, and to wish for them. Some of them had not been very
kind to him, but he did not remember that now, it was so sad to be
quite alone in the world without even a small beetle to visit him. He
remembered the beautiful people of the Mirage and the black people
of the sky; and the ostrich, and old Jacob, and the savages, and the
serpent, and the black weasel in the forest. He stood up and stared
all round to see if anything was coming, but he could see nothing
and hear nothing.

By-and-by, in that deep silence, there was a sound; it seemed to
come from a great distance, it was so faint. Then it grew louder and
nearer; and far away he saw a little cloud of dust, and then, even
through the dust, dark forms coming swiftly towards him. The sound
he heard was like a long halloo, a cry like the cry of a man, but
wild and shrill, like a bird's cry; and whenever that cry was uttered,
it was followed by a strange confused noise as of the neighing of
many horses. They were, in truth, horses that were coming swiftly
towards him--a herd of sixty or seventy wild horses. He could see
and hear them only too plainly now, looking very terrible in their
strength and speed, and the flowing black manes that covered them
like a black cloud, as they came thundering on, intending perhaps to
sweep over him and trample him to death with their iron-hard hoofs.

All at once, when they were within fifty yards of Martin, the long,
shrill, wild cry went up again, and the horses swerved to one side,
and went sweeping round him in a wide circle. Then, as they galloped
by, he caught sight of the strangest-looking being he had ever seen,
a man, on the back of one of the horses; naked and hairy, he looked
like a baboon as he crouched, doubled up, gripping the shoulders and
neck of the horse with his knees, clinging with his hands to the mane,
and craning his neck like a flying bird. It was this strange rider
who had uttered the long piercing man-and-bird-like cries; and now
changing his voice to a whinnying sound the horses came to a stop,
and gathering together in a crowd they stood tossing their manes and
staring at Martin with their wild, startled eyes.

In another moment the wild rider came bounding out from among them,
and moving now erect, now on all fours, came sideling up to Martin,
flinging his arms and legs about, wagging his head, grimacing and
uttering whinnying and other curious noises. Never had Martin looked
upon so strange a man! He was long and lean so that you could have
counted his ribs, and he was stark naked, except for the hair of his
head and face, which half covered him. His skin was of a yellowish
brown colour, and the hair the colour of old dead grass; and it was
coarse and tangled, falling over his shoulders and back and covering
his forehead like a thatch, his big brown nose standing out beneath
it like a beak. The face was covered with the beard which was
tangled too, and grew down to his waist, After staring at Martin for
some time with his big, yellow, goat-like eyes, he pranced up to him
and began to sniff round him, then touched him with his nose on his
face, arms, and shoulders.

[Illustration: ]

"Who are you?" said Martin in astonishment.

For only answer the other squealed and whinnied, grimacing and
kicking his legs up at the same time. Then the horses advanced to
them, and gathering round in a close crowd began touching Martin with
their noses. He liked it--the softness of their sensitive skins,
which were like velvet, and putting up his hands he began to stroke
their noses. Then one by one, after smelling him, and being touched
by his hand, they turned away, and going down into the valley were
soon scattered about, most of them grazing, some rolling, others
lying stretched out on the grass as if to sleep; while the young
foals in the troop, leaving their dams, began playing about and
challenging one another to run a race.

Martin, following and watching them, almost wished that he too could
go on four legs to join them in their games. He trusted those wild
horses, but he was still puzzled by that strange man, who had also
left him now and was going quietly round on all fours, smelling at
the grass. By-and-by he found something to his liking in a small
patch of tender green clover, which he began nosing and tearing it
up with his teeth, then turning his head round he stared back at
Martin, his jaws working vigorously all the time, the stems and
leaves of the clover he was eating sticking out from his mouth and
hanging about his beard. All at once he jumped up, and flying back
at Martin, snatched him up from the ground, carried him to the
clover patch, and set him upon it, face down, on all fours; then
when Martin sat up he grasped him by the head and forced it down
until his nose was on the grass so as to make him smell it and know
that it was good. But smell it he would not, and finally the other
seized him roughly again and, opening his mouth, forced a bunch of
grass into it.

[Illustration: ]

"It's grass, and I sha'n't eat it!" screamed Martin, crying with
anger at being so treated, and spewing the green stuff out of his
mouth.

Then the man released him, and, withdrawing a space of two or three
yards, sat down on his haunches, and, planting his bony elbows on
his knees, thrust his great brown fingers in his tangled hair, and
stared at Martin with his big yellow goat's eyes for a long time.

Suddenly a wild excited look came into his eyes, and, leaping up
with a shrill cry, which caused all the horses to look round at him,
he once more snatched Martin up, and holding him firmly gripped to
his ribby side by his arm, bounded off to where a mare was standing
giving suck to her young foal. With a vigorous kick he sent the foal
away, and forced Martin to take his place, and, to make it easier
for him, pressed the teat into his mouth. Martin was not accustomed
to feed in that way, and he not only refused to suck, but continued
to cry with indignation at such treatment, and to struggle with all
his little might to free himself. His striving was all in vain; and
by-and-by the man, seeing that he would not suck, had a fresh idea,
and, gripping Martin more firmly than ever, with one hand forced and
held his mouth open, and with the other drew a stream of milk into it.
After choking and spluttering and crying more than ever for a while,
Martin began to grow quiet, and to swallow the milk with some
satisfaction, for he was very hungry and thirsty, and it tasted very
good. By-and-by, when no more milk could be drawn from the teats, he
was taken to a second mare, from which the foal was kicked away with
as little ceremony as the first one, and then he had as much more
milk as he wanted, and began to like being fed in this amusing way.

Of what happened after that Martin did not know much, except that
the man seemed very happy after feeding him. He set Martin on the
back of a horse, then jumped and danced round him, making funny
chuckling noises, after which he rolled horse-like on the grass, his
arms and legs up in the air, and finally, pulling Martin down, he
made him roll too.

But the little fellow was too tired to keep his eyes any longer open,
and when he next opened them it was morning, and he found himself
lying wedged in between a mare and her young foal lying side by side
close together. There too was the wild man, coiled up like a
sleeping dog, his head pillowed on the foal's neck, and the hair of
his great shaggy beard thrown like a blanket over Martin.

He very soon grew accustomed to the new strange manner of life, and
even liked it. Those big, noble-looking wild horses, with their
shining coats, brown and bay and black and sorrel and chestnut, and
their black manes and tails that swept the grass when they moved,
were so friendly to him that he could not help loving them. As he
went about among them when they grazed, every horse he approached
would raise his head and touch his face and arms with his nose.
"O you dear horse!" Martin would exclaim, rubbing the warm,
velvet-soft, sensitive nose with his hand.

He soon discovered that they were just as fond of play as he was,
and that he too was to take part in their games. Having fed as long
as they wanted that morning, they all at once began to gather
together, coming at a gallop, neighing shrilly; then the wild man,
catching Martin up, leaped upon the back of one of the horses, and
away went the whole troop at a furious pace to the great open dry
plain, where Martin had met with them on the previous day. Now it
was very terrifying for him at first to be in the midst of that
flying crowd, as the animals went tearing over the plain, which
seemed to shake beneath their thundering hoofs, while their human
leader cheered them on with his shrill, repeated cries. But in a
little while he too caught the excitement, and, losing all his fear,
was as wildly happy as the others, crying out at the top of his
voice in imitation of the wild man.

After an hour's run they returned to the valley, and then Martin,
without being compelled to do so, rolled about on the grass, and
went after the young foals when they came out to challenge one
another to a game. He tried to do as they did, prancing and throwing
up his heels and snorting, but when they ran from him they soon left
him hopelessly behind. Meanwhile the wild man kept watch over him,
feeding him with mare's milk, and inviting him from time to time to
smell and taste the tender grass. Best of all was, when they went
for another run in the evening, and when Martin was no longer held
with a tight grip against the man's side, but was taught or allowed
to hold on, clinging with his legs to the man's body and clasping
him round the neck with his arms, his fingers tightly holding on to
the great shaggy beard.

Three days passed in this way, and if his time had been much longer
with the wild horses he would have become one of the troop, and
would perhaps have eaten grass too, and forgotten his human speech,
or that he was a little boy born to a very different kind of life.
But it was not to be, and in the end he was separated from the troop
by accident.

At the end of the third day, when the sun was setting, and all the
horses were scattered about in the valley, quietly grazing,
something disturbed them. It might have been a sight or sound of
some feared object, or perhaps the wind had brought the smell of
their enemies and hunters from a great distance to their nostrils.
Suddenly they were all in a wild commotion, galloping from all sides
toward their leader, and he, picking Martin up, was quickly on a
horse, and off they went full speed, but not towards the plain where
they were accustomed to go for their runs. Now they fled in the
opposite direction down to the river: into it they went, into that
wide, deep, dangerous current, leaping from the bank, each horse, as
he fell into the water with a tremendous splash, disappearing from
sight; but in another moment the head and upper part of the neck was
seen to rise above the surface, until the whole lot were in, and
appeared to Martin like a troop of horses' heads swimming without
bodies over the river. He, clinging to the neck and beard of the
wild man, had the upper half of his body out of the cold, rushing
water, and in this way they all got safely across and up the
opposite bank. No sooner were they out, than, without even pausing
to shake the water from their skins, they set off at full speed
across the valley towards the distant hills. Now on this side, at a
distance of a mile or so from the river, there were vast reed-beds
standing on low land, dried to a hard crust by the summer heat, and
right into the reeds the horses rushed and struggled to force their
way through. The reeds were dead and dry, so tall that they rose
high above the horses' heads, and growing so close together that it
was hard to struggle through them. Then when they were in the midst
of this difficult place, the dry crust that covered the low ground
began to yield to the heavy hoofs, and the horses, sinking to their
knees, were thrown down and plunged about in the most desperate way,
and in the midst of this confusion Martin was struck and thrown from
his place, falling amongst the reeds. Luckily he was not trampled
upon, but he was left behind, and then what a dreadful situation was
his, when the whole troop had at last succeeded in fighting their
way through, and had gone away leaving him in that dark, solitary
place! He listened until the sound of heavy hoofs and the long cries
of the man had died away in the distance; then the silence and
darkness terrified him, and he struggled to get out, but the reeds
grew so close together that before he had pushed a dozen yards
through them he sank down, unable to do more.

The air was hot and close and still down there on the ground, but by
leaning his head back, and staring straight up he could see the pale
night sky sprinkled with stars in the openings between the dry
leaves and spikes of the reeds. Poor Martin could do nothing but
gaze up at the little he could see of the sky in that close, black
place, until his neck ached with the strain; but at last, to make
him hope, he heard a sound--the now familiar long shrill cry of the
wild man. Then, as it came nearer, the sound of tramping hoofs and
neighing of the horses was heard, and the cries and hoof-beats grew
louder and then fainter in turns, and sounded now on this side, now
on that, and he knew that they were looking for him. "I'm here, I'm
here," he cried; "oh, dear horses, come and take me away!" But they
could not hear him, and at last the sound of their neighing and the
wild long cries died away altogether, and Martin was left alone in
that black silent place.



CHAPTER XI


THE LADY OF THE HILLS

No escape was possible for poor little Martin so long as it was dark,
and there he had to stay all night, but morning brought him comfort;
for now he could see the reed-stems that hemmed him in all round,
and by using his hands to bend them from him on either side he could
push through them. By-and-by the sunlight touched the tops of the
tall plants, and working his way towards the side from which the
light came he soon made his escape from that prison, and came into a
place where he could walk without trouble, and could see the earth
and sky again. Further on, in a grassy part of the valley, he found
some sweet roots wrhich greatly refreshed him, and at last, leaving
the valley, he came out on a high grassy plain, and saw the hills
before him looking very much nearer than he had ever seen them look
before. Up till now they had appeared like masses of dark blue
banked up cloud resting on the earth, now he could see that they
were indeed stone--blue stone piled up in huge cliffs and crags high
above the green world; he could see the roughness of the heaped up
rocks, the fissures and crevices in the sides of the hills, and here
and there the patches of green colour where trees and bushes had
taken root. How wonderful it seemed to Martin that evening standing
there in the wide green plain, the level sun at his back shining on
his naked body, making him look like a statue of a small boy carved
in whitest marble or alabaster. Then, to make the sight he gazed on
still more enchanting, just as the sun went down the colour of the
hills changed from stone blue to a purple that was like the purple
of ripe plums and grapes, only more beautiful and bright. In a few
minutes the purple colour faded away and the hills grew shadowy and
dark. It was too late in the day, and he was too tired to walk
further. He was very hungry and thirsty too, and so when he had
found a few small white partridge-berries and had made a poor supper
on them, he gathered some dry grass into a little heap, and lying
down in it, was soon in a sound sleep.

It was not until the late afternoon next day that Martin at last got
to the foot of the hill, or mountain, and looking up he saw it like
a great wall of stone above him, with trees and bushes and trailing
vines growing out of the crevices and on the narrow ledges of the
rock. Going some distance he came to a place where he could ascend,
and here he began slowly walking upwards. At first he could hardly
contain his delight where everything looked new and strange, and
here he found some very beautiful flowers; but as he toiled on he
grew more tired and hungry at every step, and then, to make matters
worse, his legs began to pain so that he could hardly lift them. It
was a curious pain which he had never felt in his sturdy little legs
before in all his wanderings.

Then a cloud came over the sun, and a sharp wind sprang up that made
him shiver with cold: then followed a shower of rain; and now Martin,
feeling sore and miserable, crept into a cavity beneath a pile of
overhanging rocks for shelter. He was out of the rain there, but the
wind blew in on him until it made his teeth chatter with cold. He
began to think of his mother, and of all the comforts of his lost
home--the bread and milk when he was hungry, the warm clothing, and
the soft little bed with its snowy white coverlid in which he had
slept so sweetly every night.

"O mother, mother!" he cried, but his mother was too far off to hear
his piteous cry.

When the shower was over he crept out of his shelter again, and with
his little feet already bleeding from the sharp rocks, tried to
climb on. In one spot he found some small, creeping, myrtle plants
covered with ripe white berries, and although they had a very
pungent taste he ate his fill of them, he was so very hungry. Then
feeling that he could climb no higher, he began to look round for a
dry, sheltered spot to pass the night in. In a little while he came
to a great, smooth, flat stone that looked like a floor in a room,
and was about forty yards wide: nothing grew on it except some small
tufts of grey lichen; but on the further side, at the foot of a steep,
rocky precipice, there was a thick bed of tall green and yellow ferns,
and among the ferns he hoped to find a place to lie down in. Very
slowly he limped across the open space, crying with the pain he felt
at every step; but when he reached the bed of ferns he all at once
saw, sitting among the tall fronds on a stone, a strange-looking
woman in a green dress, who was gazing very steadily at him with
eyes full of love and compassion. At her side there crouched a big
yellow beast, covered all over with black, eye-like spots, with a
big round head, and looking just like a cat, but a hundred times
larger than the biggest cat he had ever seen. The animal rose up
with a low sound like a growl, and glared at Martin with its wide,
yellow, fiery eyes, which so terrified him that he dared not move
another step until the womaan, speaking very gently to him, told him
not to fear. She caressed the great beast, making him lie down again;
then coming forward and taking Martin by the hand, she drew him up
to her knees.

[Illustration: ]

"What is your name, poor little suffering child?" she asked, bending
down to him, and speaking softly. "Martin--what's yours?" he returned,
still half sobbing, and rubbing his eyes with his little fists.

"I am called the Lady of the Hills, and I live here alone in the
mountain. Tell me, why do you cry, Martin?"

"Because I'm so cold, and--and my legs hurt so, and--and because I
want to go back to my mother. She's over there," said he, with
another sob, pointing vaguely to the great plain beneath their feet,
extending far, far away into the blue distance, where the crimson
sun was now setting.

"I will be your mother, and you shall live with me here on the
mountain," she said, caressing his little cold hands with hers.
"Will you call me mother?"

"You are _not_ my mother," he returned warmly. "I don't want to call
you mother."

"When I love you so much, dear child?" she pleaded, bending down
until her lips were close to his averted face.

"How that great spotted cat stares at me!" he suddenly said.
"Do you think it will kill me?"

"No, no, he only wants to play with you. Will you not even look at me,
Martin?"

He still resisted her, but her hand felt very warm and
comforting--it was such a large, warm, protecting hand. So pleasant
did it feel that after a little while he began to move his hand up
her beautiful, soft, white arm until it touched her hair. For her
hair was unbound and loose; it was dark, and finer than the finest
spun silk, and fell all over her shoulders and down her back to the
stone she sat on. He let his fingers stray in and out among it; and
it felt like the soft, warm down that lines a little bird's nest to
his skin. Finally, he touched her neck and allowed his hand to rest
there, it was such a soft, warm neck. At length, but reluctantly,
for his little rebellious heart was not yet wholly subdued, he
raised his eyes to her face. Oh, how beautiful she was! Her love and
eager desire to win him had flushed her clear olive skin with rich
red colour; out of her sweet red lips, half parted, came her warm
breath on his cheek, more fragrant than wild flowers; and her large
dark eyes were gazing down into his with such a tenderness in them
that Martin, seeing it, felt a strange little shudder pass through
him, and scarcely knew whether to think it pleasant or painful.
"Dear child, I love you so much," she spoke, "will you not call me
mother?"

Dropping his eyes and with trembling lips, feeling a little ashamed
at being conquered at last, he whispered "Mother."

She raised him in her arms and pressed him to her bosom, wrapping
her hair like a warm mantle round him; and in less than one minute,
overcome by fatigue, he fell fast asleep in her arms.



CHAPTER XII


THE LITTLE PEOPLE UNDERGROUND

When he awoke Martin found himself lying on a soft downy bed in a
dim stone chamber, and feeling silky hair over his cheek and neck
and arms, he knew that he was still with his new strange mother, the
beautiful Lady of the Mountain. She, seeing him awake, took him up
in her arms, and holding him against her bosom, carried him through
a long winding stone passage, and out into the bright morning
sunlight. There by a small spring of clearest water that gushed from
the rock she washed his scratched and bruised skin, and rubbed it
with sweet-smelling unguents, and gave him food and drink. The great
spotted beast sat by them all the time, purring like a cat, and at
intervals he tried to entice Martin to leave the woman's lap and
play with him. But she would not let him out of her arms: all day
she nursed and fondled him as if he had been a helpless babe instead
of the sturdy little run-away and adventurer he had proved himself
to be. She also made him tell her the story of how he had got lost
and of all the wonderful things that had happened to him in his
wanderings in the wilderness--the people of the Mirage, and old
Jacob and the savages, the great forest, the serpent, the owl, the
wild horses and wild man, and the black people of the sky. But it
was of the Mirage and the procession of lovely beings about which he
spoke most and questioned her.

"Do you think it was all a dream?" he kept asking her, "the Queen
and all those people?"

She was vexed at the question, and turning her face away, refused to
answer him. For though at all other times, and when he spoke of
other things, she was gentle and loving in her manner, the moment he
spoke of the Queen of the Mirage and the gifts she had bestowed on
him, she became impatient, and rebuked him for saying such foolish
things.

At length she spoke and told him that it was a dream, a very very
idle dream, a dream that was not worth dreaming; that he must never
speak of it again, never think of it, but forget it, just as he had
forgotten all the other vain silly dreams he had ever had. And
having said this much a little sharply, she smiled again and fondled
him, and promised that when he next slept he should have a good dream,
one worth the dreaming, and worth remembering and talking about.

She held him away from her, seating him on her knees, to look at his
face, and said, "For oh, dear little Martin, you are lovely and
sweet to look at, and you are mine, my own sweet child, and so long
as you live with me on the hills, and love me and eall me mother,
you shall be happy, and everything you see, sleeping and waking,
shall seem strange and beautiful."

It was quite true that he was sweet to look at, very pretty with his
rosy-white skin deepening to red on his cheeks; and his hair curling
all over his head was of a bright golden chestnut colour; and his
eyes were a very bright blue, and looked keen and straight at you
just like a bird's eyes, that seem to be thinking of nothing, and
yet seeing everything.

After this Martin was eager to go to sleep at once and have the
promised dream, but his very eagerness kept him wide awake all day,
and even after going to bed in that dim chamber in the heart of the
hill, it was a long time before he dropped off. But he did not know
that he had fallen asleep: it seemed to him that he was very wide
awake, and that he heard a voice speaking in the chamber, and that
he started up to listen to it.

"Do you not know that there are things just as strange underground
as above it?" said the voice.

Martin could not see the speaker, but he answered quite boldly:
"No--there's nothing underground except earth and worms and roots.
I've seen it when they've been digging."

"Oh, but there is!" said the voice. "You can see for yourself. All
you've got to do is to find a path leading down, and to follow it.
There's a path over there just in front of you; you can see the
opening from where you are lying."

He looked, and sure enough there _was_ an opening, and a dim passage
running down through the solid rock. Up he jumped, fired at the
prospect of seeing new and wonderful things, and without looking any
more to see who had spoken to him, he ran over to it. The passage
had a smooth floor of stone, and sloped downward into the earth, and
went round and round in an immense spiral; but the circles were so
wide that Martin scarcely knew that he was not travelling in a
straight line. Have you by chance ever seen a buzzard, or stork, or
vulture, or some other great bird, soaring upwards into the sky in
wide circles, each circle taking it higher above the earth, until it
looked like a mere black speck in the vast blue heavens, and at
length disappeared altogether? Just in that way, going round and
round in just such wide circles, lightly running all the time, with
never a pause to rest, and without feeling in the least tired,
Martin went on, only down and down and further down, instead of up
and up like the soaring bird, until he was as far under the mountain
as ever any buzzard or crane or eagle soared above it.

Thus running he came at last out of the passage to an open room or
space so wide that, look which way he would, he could see no end to
it. The stone roof of this place was held up by huge stone pillars
standing scattered about like groups of great rough-barked trees,
many times bigger round than hogsheads. Here and there in the roof,
or the stone overhead, were immense black caverns which almost
frightened him to gaze up at them, they were so vast and black. And
no light or sun or moon came down into that deep part of the earth:
the light was from big fires, and they were fires of smithies
burning all about him, sending up great flames and clouds of black
smoke, which rose and floated upwards through those big black caverns
in the roof. Crowds of people were gathered around the smithies, all
very busy heating metal and hammering on anvils like blacksmiths.
Never had he seen so many people, nor ever had he seen such busy men
as these, rushing about here and there shouting and colliding with
one another, bringing and carrying huge loads in baskets on their
backs, and altogether the sight of them, and the racket and the
smoke and dust, and the blazing fires, was almost too much for Martin;
and for a moment or two he was tempted to turn and run back into the
passage through which he had come. But the strangeness of it all
kept him there, and then he began to look more closely at the people,
for these were the little men that live under the earth, and they
were unlike anything he had seen on its surface. They were very stout,
strong-looking little men, dressed in coarse dark clothes, covered
with dust and grime, and they had dark faces, and long hair, and
rough, unkempt beards; they had very long arms and big hands, like
baboons, and there was not one among them who looked taller than
Martin himself. After looking at them he did not feel at all afraid
of them; he only wanted very much to know who they were, and what
they were doing, and why they were so excited and noisy over their
work. So he thrust himself among them, going to the smithies where
they were in crowds, and peering curiously at them. Then he began to
notice that his coming among them created a great commotion, for no
sooner would he appear than all work would be instantly suspended;
down would go their baskets and loads of wood, their hammers and
implements of all kinds, and they would stare and point at him, all
jabbering together, so that the noise was as if a thousand cockatoos
and parrots and paroquets were all screaming at once. What it was
all about he could not tell, as he could not make out what they said;
he could only see, and plainly enough, that his presence astonished
and upset them, for as he went about among them they fell back
before him, crowding together, and all staring and pointing at him.

But at length he began to make out what they were saying; they were
all exclaiming and talking about him. "Look at him! look at him!"
they cried. "Who is he? What, Martin--this Martin? Never. No, no, no!
Yes, yes, yes! Martin himself--Martin with nothing on! Not a
shred--not a thread! Impossible--it cannot be! Nothing so strange
has ever happened! _Naked_--do you say that Martin is naked? Oh,
dreadful--from the crown of his head to his toes, naked as he was
born! No clothes--no clothes--oh no, it can't be Martin. It is, it is!"
And so on and on, until Martin could not endure it longer, for he
had been naked for days and days, and had ceased to think about it,
and in fact did not know that he was naked. And now hearing their
remarks, and seeing how they were disturbed, he looked down at
himself and saw that it was indeed so--that he had nothing on, and
he grew ashamed and frightened, and thought he would run and hide
himself from them in some hole in the ground. But there was no place
to hide in, for now they had gathered all round him in a vast
crowd, so that whichever way he turned there before him they
appeared--hundreds and hundreds of dark, excited faces, hundreds of
grimy hands all pointing at him. Then, all at once, he caught sight
of an old rag of a garment lying on the ground among the ashes and
cinders, and he thought he would cover himself with it, and picking
it hastily up was just going to put it round him when a great roar
of "No!" burst out from the crowd; he was almost deafened with the
sound, so that he stood trembling with the old dirty rag of cloth in
his hand. Then one of the little men came up to him, and snatching
the rag from his hand, flung it angrily down upon the floor; then as
if afraid of remaining so near Martin, he backed away into the crowd
again.

Just then Martin heard a very low voice close to his ear speaking to
him, but when he looked round he could see no person near him. He
knew it was the same voice which had spoken to him in the cave where
he slept, and had told him to go down into that place underground.

[Illustration: ]

"Do not fear," said the gentle voice to Martin. "Say to the little
men that you have lost your clothes, and ask them for something to
put on."

Then Martin, who had covered his face with his hands to shut out the
sight of the angry crowd, took courage, and looking at them, said,
half sobbing, "O, Little Men, I've lost my clothes--won't you give me
something to put on?"

This speech had a wonderful effect: instantly there was a mighty rush,
all the Little Men hurrying away in all directions, shouting and
tumbling over each other in their haste to get away, and by-and-by
it looked to Martin as if they were having a great struggle or
contest over something. They were all struggling to get possession
of a small closed basket, and it was like a game of football with
hundreds of persons all playing, all fighting for possession of the
ball. At length one of them succeeded in getting hold of the basket
and escaping from all the others who opposed him, and running to
Martin he threw it down at his feet, and lifting the lid displayed
to his sight a bundle of the most beautiful clothes ever seen by
child or man.

With a glad cry Martin pulled them out, but the next moment a very
important-looking Little Man, with a great white beard, sprang
forward and snatched them out of his hand.

"No, no," he shouted. "These are not fit for Martin to wear! They
will soil!" Saying which, he flung them down on that dusty floor
with its litter of cinders and dirt, and began to trample on them as
if in a great passion. Then he snatched them up again and shook them,
and all could see that they were unsoiled and just as bright and
beautiful as before. Then Martin tried to take them from him, but the
other would not let him.

"Never shall Martin wear such poor clothes," shouted the old man.
"They will not even keep out the wet," and with that he thrust them
into a great tub of water, and jumping in began treading them down
with his feet. But when he pulled them out again and shook them
before their faces, all saw that they were as dry and bright as
before.

"Give them to me!" cried Martin, thinking that it was all right now.

"Never shall Martin wear such poor clothes--they will not resist fire,"
cried the old man, and into the flames he flung them.

Martin now gave up all hopes of possessing them, and was ready to
burst into tears at their loss, when out of the fire they were
pulled again, and it was seen that the flames had not injured or
tarnished them in the least. Once more Martin put out his arms and
this time he was allowed to take those beautiful clothes, and then
just as he clasped them to him with a cry of delight he woke!

His head was lying on his new mother's arm, and she was awake
watching him.

"O, mother, what a nice dream I had! O such pretty clothes--why did
I wake so soon?"

She laughed and touched his arms, showing him that they were still
clasping that beautiful suit of clothes to his breast--the very
clothes of his wonderful dream!



CHAPTER XIII


THE GREAT BLUE WATER

There was not in all that land, nor perhaps in all the wide world, a
happier little boy than Martin, when after waking from his sleep and
dream he dressed himself for the first time in that new suit, and
went out from the cave into the morning sunlight. He then felt the
comfort of such clothes, for they were softer than the finest,
softest down or silk to his skin, and kept him warm when it was cold,
and cool when it was hot, and dry when it rained on him, and the
earth could not soil them, nor the thorns tear them; and above
everything they were the most beautiful clothes ever seen. Their
colour was a deep moss green, or so it looked at a little distance,
or when seen in the shade, but in the sunshine it sparkled as if
small, shining, many-coloured beads had been sewn in the cloth; only
there were no beads; it was only the shining threads that made it
sparkle so, like clean sand in the sun. When you looked closely at
the cloth, you could see the lovely pattern woven in it--small leaf
and flower, the leaves like moss leaves, and the flowers like the
pimpernel, but not half so big, and they were yellow and red and
blue and violet in colour.

But there were many, many things besides the lovely clothes to make
him contented and happy. First, the beautiful woman of the hills who
loved and cherished him and made him call her by the sweet name of
"mother" so many times every day that he well nigh forgot she was
not his real mother. Then there was the great stony hill-side on
which he now lived for a playground, where he could wander all day
among the rocks, overgrown with creepers and strange sweet-smelling
flowers he had never seen on the plain below. The birds and
butterflies he saw there were different from those he had always seen;
so were the snakes which he often found sleepily coiled up on the
rocks, and the little swift lizards. Even the water looked strange
and more beautiful than the water in the plain, for here it gushed
out of the living rock, sparkling like crystal in the sun, and was
always cold when he dipped his hands in it even on the hottest days.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing was the immense distance he could
see, when he looked away from the hillside across the plain and saw
the great dark forest where he had been, and the earth stretching far,
far away beyond.

Then there was his playmate, the great yellow-spotted cat, who
followed him about and was always ready for a frolic, playing in a
very curious way. Whenever Martin would prepare to take a running
leap, or a swift run down a slope, the animal, stealing quietly up
behind, would put out a claw from his big soft foot--a great white
claw as big as an owl's beak--and pull him suddenly back. At last
Martin would lose his temper, and picking up a stick would turn on
his playmate; and away the animal would fly, pretending to be afraid,
and going over bushes and big stones with tremendous leaps to
disappear from sight on the mountain side. But very soon he would
steal secretly back by some other way to spring upon Martin unawares
and roll him over and over on the ground, growling as if angry, and
making believe to worry him with his great white teeth, although
never really hurting him in the least. He played with Martin just as
a cat plays with its kitten when it pretends to punish it.

Whenever Martin began to show the least sign of weariness the Lady
of the Hills would call him to her. Then, lying back among the ferns,
she would unbind her long silky tresses to let him play with them,
for this was always a delight to him. Then she would gather her hair
up again and dress it with yellow flowers and glossy dark green
leaves to make herself look more lovely than ever. At other times,
taking him on her shoulders, she would bound nimbly as a wild goat up
the steepest places, springing from crag to crag, and dancing gaily
along the narrow ledges of rock, where it made him dizzy to look down.
Then when the sun was near setting, when long shadows from rocks and
trees began to creep over the mountain, and he had eaten the fruits
and honey and other wild delicacies she provided, she would make him
lie on her bosom. Playing with her loose hair and listening to her
singing as she rocked herself on a stone, he would presently fall
asleep.

In the morning on waking he would always find himself lying still
clasped to her breast in that great dim cavern; and almost always
when he woke he would find her crying. Sometimes on opening his eyes
he would find her asleep, but with traces of tears on her face,
showing that she had been awake and crying.

One afternoon, seeing him tired of play and hard to amuse, she took
him in her arms and carried him right up the side of the mountain,
where it grew so steep that even the big cat could not follow them.
Finally she brought him out on the extreme summit, and looking round
he seemed to see the whole world spread out beneath him. Below,
half-way down, there were some wild cattle feeding on the mountain
side, and they looked at that distance no bigger than mice. Looking
eastwards he beheld just beyond the plain a vast expanse of blue
water extending leagues and leagues away until it faded into the
blue sky. He shouted with joy when he saw it, and could not take his
eyes from this wonderful world of water.

"Take me there--take me there!" he cried.

She only shook her head and tried to laugh him out of such a wish;
but by-and-by when she attempted to carry him back down the mountain
he refused to move from the spot; nor would he speak to her nor look
up into her pleading face, but kept his eyes fixed on that distant
blue ocean which had so enchanted him. For it seemed to Martin the
most wonderful thing he had ever beheld.

At length it began to grow cold on the summit; then with gentle
caressing words she made him turn and look to the opposite side of
the heavens, where the sun was just setting behind a great mass of
clouds--dark purple and crimson, rising into peaks that were like
hills of rose-coloured pearl, and all the heavens beyond them a pale
primrose-coloured flame. Filled with wonder at all this rich and
varied colour he forgot the ocean for a moment, and uttered an
exclamation of delight.

"Do you know, dear Martin," said she, "what we should find there,
where it all looks so bright and beautiful, if I had wings and could
fly with you, clinging to my bosom like a little bat clinging to its
mother when she flies abroad in the twilight?"

"What?" asked Martin.

"Only dark dark clouds full of rain and cutting hail and thunder and
lightning. That is how it is with the sea, Martin: it makes you love
it when you see it at a distance; but oh, it is cruel and treacherous,
and when it has once got you in its power then it is more terrible
than the thunder and lightning in the cloud. Do you remember, when
you first came to me, naked, shivering with cold, with your little
bare feet blistered and bleeding from the sharp stones, how I
comforted you with my love, and you found it warm and pleasant lying
on my breast? The sea will not comfort you in that way; it will
clasp you to a cold, cold breast, and kiss you with bitter salt lips,
and carry you down where it is always dark, where you will never
never see the blue sky and sunshine and flowers again."

Martin shivered and nestled closer to her; and then while the
shadows of evening were gathering round them, she sat rocking
herself to and fro on a stone, murmuring many tender, sweet words to
him, until the music of her voice and the warmth of her bosom made
him sleep.



CHAPTER XIV


THE WONDERS OF THE HILLS

Now, although Martin had gone very comfortably to sleep in her arms
and found it sweet to be watched over so tenderly, he was not the
happy little boy he had been before the sight of the distant ocean.
And she knew it, and was troubled in her mind, and anxious to do
something to make him forget that great blue water. She could do many
things, and above all she could show him new and wonderful things in
the hills where she wished to keep him always with her. To caress him,
to feed and watch over him by day, and hold him in her arms when he
slept at night--all that was less to him than the sight of something
new and strange; she knew this well, and therefore determined to
satisfy his desire and make his life so full that he would always be
more than contented with it.

In the morning he went out on the hillside, wandering listlessly
among the rocks, and when the big cat found him there and tried to
tempt him to a game he refused to play, for he had not yet got over
his disappointment, and could think of nothing but the sea. But the
cat did not know that anything was the matter with him, and was more
determined to play than ever; crouching now here, now there among
the stones and bushes, he would spring out upon Martin and pull him
down with its big paws, and this so enraged him that picking up a
stick he struck furiously at his tormentor. But the cat was too
quick for him; he dodged the blows, then knocked the stick out of
his hand, and finally Martin, to escape from him, crept into a
crevice in a rock where the cat could not reach him, and refused to
come out even when the Lady of the Hills came to look for him and
begged him to come to her. When at last, compelled by hunger, he
returned to her, he was silent and sullen and would not be caressed.

He saw no more of the cat, and when next day he asked her where it
was, she said that it had gone from them and would return no
more--that she had sent it away because it had vexed him. This made
Martin sulk, and he would have gone away and hidden himself from her
had she not caught him up in her arms. He struggled to free himself,
but could not, and she then carried him away a long distance down
the mountain-side until they came to a small dell, green with
creepers and bushes, with a deep carpet of dry moss on the ground,
and here she sat down and began to talk to him.

"The cat was a very beautiful beast with his spotted hide," she said;
"and you liked to play with him sometimes, but in a little while you
will be glad that he has gone from you."

He asked her why.

"Because though he was fond of you and liked to follow you about and
play with you, he is very fierce and powerful, and all the other
beasts are afraid of him. So long as he was with us they would not
come, but now he has gone they will come to you and let you go to
them."

"Where are they?" said Martin, his curiosity greatly excited.

"Let us wait here," she said, "and perhaps we shall see one by-and-by."

So they waited and were silent, and as nothing came and nothing
happened, Martin sitting on the mossy ground began to feel a strange
drowsiness stealing over him. He rubbed his eyes and looked round; he
wanted to keep very wide awake and alert, so as not to miss the
sight of anything that might come. He was vexed with himself for
feeling drowsy, and wondered why it was; then listening to the low
continuous hum of the bees, he concluded that it was that low, soft,
humming sound that made him sleepy. He began to look at the bees,
and saw that they were unlike other wild bees he knew, that they
were like humble-bees in shape but much smaller, and were all of a
golden brown colour: they were in scores and hundreds coming and
going, and had their home or nest in the rock a few feet above his
head. He got up, and climbing from his mother's knee to her shoulder,
and standing on it, he looked into the crevice into which the bees
were streaming, and saw their nest full of clusters of small round
objects that looked like white berries.

Then he came down and told her what he had seen, and wanted to know
all about it, and when she answered that the little round fruit-like
objects he had seen were cells full of purple honey that tasted sweet
and salt, he wanted her to get him some.

"Not now--not to-day," she replied, "for now you love me and are
contented to be with me, and you are my own darling child. When you
are naughty, and try to grieve me all you can, and would like to go
away and never see me more, you shall taste the purple honey."

He looked up into her face wondering and troubled at her words, and
she smiled down so sweetly on his upturned face, looking very
beautiful and tender, that it almost made him cry to think how
wilful and passionate he had been, and climbing on to her knees he
put his little face against her cheek.

[Illustration: ]

Then, while he was still caressing her, light tripping steps were
heard over the stony path, and through the bushes came two beautiful
wild animals--a doe with her fawn! Martin had often seen the wild
deer on the plains, but always at a great distance and running; now
that he had them standing before him he could see just what they
were like, and of all the four-footed creatures he had ever looked
on they were undoubtedly the most lovely. They were of a slim shape,
and of a very bright reddish fawn-colour, the young one with dappled
sides; and both had large trumpet-like ears, which they held up as
if listening, while they gazed fixedly at Martin's face with their
large, dark, soft eyes. Enchanted with the sight of them, he slipped
down from his mother's lap, and stretched out his arms towards them,
and the doe, coming a little nearer, timidly smelt at his hand, then
licked it with her long, pink tongue.

In a few minutes the doe and fawn went away and they saw them no more;
but they left Martin with a heart filled with happy excitement; and
they were but the first of many strange and beautiful wild animals
he was now made acquainted with, so that for days he could think of
nothing else and wished for nothing better.

But one day when she had taken him a good way up on the hillside,
Martin suddenly recognized a huge rocky precipice before him as the
one up which she had taken him, and from the top of which he had
seen the great blue water. Instantly he demanded to be taken up again,
and when she refused he rebelled against her, and was first
passionate and then sullen. Finding that he would not listen to
anything she could say, she sat down on a rock and left him to
himself. He could not climb up that precipice, and so he rambled
away to some distance, thinking to hide himself from her, because he
thought her unreasonable and unkind not to allow him to see the blue
water once more. But presently he caught sight of a snake lying
motionless on a bed of moss at the foot of a rock, with the sun on it,
lighting up its polished scales so that they shone like gems or
coloured glass. Resting his elbows on the stone and holding his face
between his hands he fell to watching the snake, for though it
seemed fast asleep in the sun its gem-like eyes were wide open.

All at once he felt his mother's hand on his head: "Martin," she said,
"would you like to know what the snake feels when it lies with eyes
open in the bright hot sun? Shall I make you feel just how he feels?"

"Yes," said Martin eagerly, forgetting his quarrel with her; then
taking him up in her strong arms she walked rapidly away, and
brought him to that very spot where he had seen the doe and fawn.

She sat him down, and instantly his ears were filled with the murmur
of the bees; and in a moment she put her hand in the crevice and
pulled out a cluster of white cells, and gave them to Martin.
Breaking one of the cells he saw that it was full of thick honey, of
a violet colour, and tasting it he found it was like very sweet
honey in which a little salt had been mixed. He liked it and he
didn't like it; still, it was not the same in all the cells; in some
it was scarcely salt at all; and he began to suck the honey of cell
after cell, trying to find one that was not salt; and by and by he
dropped the cluster of cells from his hand, and stooping to pick it
up forgot to do so, and laying his head down and stretching himself
out on the mossy ground looked up into his mother's face with drowsy,
happy eyes. How sweet it seemed, lying there in the sun, with the sun
shining right into his eyes, and filling his whole being with its
delicious heat! He wished for nothing now--not even for the sight of
new wonderful things; he forgot the blue water, the strange,
beautiful wild animals, and his only thought, if he had a thought,
was that it was very nice to lie there, not sleeping, but feeling
the sun in him, and seeing it above him; and seeing all things--the
blue sky, the grey rocks and green bushes and moss, and the woman in
her green dress and her loose black hair--and hearing, too, the soft,
low, continuous murmur of the yellow bees.

For hours he lay there in that drowsy condition, his mother keeping
watch over him, and when it passed off, and he got up again, his
temper appeared changed: he was more gentle and affectionate with
his mother, and obeyed her every wish. And when in his rambles on
the hill he found a snake lying in the sun he would steal softly
near it and watch it steadily for a long time, half wishing to taste
that strange purple honey again, so that he might lie again in the
sun, feeling what the snake feels. But there were more wonderful
things yet for Martin to see and know in the hills, so that in a
little while he ceased to have that desire.



CHAPTER XV


MARTIN'S EYES ARE OPENED

[Illustration: ]

One morning when they went up into a wild rocky place very high up
on the hillside a number of big birds were seen coming over the
mountain at a great height in the air, travelling in a northerly
direction. They were big hawks almost as big as eagles, with very
broad rounded wings, and instead of travelling straight like other
birds they moved in wide circles, so that they progressed very slowly.

They sat down on a stone to watch the birds, and whenever one flying
lower than the others came pretty near them Martin gazed delightedly
at it, and wished it would come still nearer so that he might see it
better. Then the woman stood up on the stone, and, gazing skywards
and throwing up her arms, she uttered a long call, and the birds
began to come lower and lower down, still sweeping round in wide
circles, and by and by one came quite down and pitched on a stone a
few yards from them. Then another came and lighted on another stone,
then another, and others followed, until they were all round him in
scores, sitting on the rocks, great brown birds with black bars on
their wings and tails, and buff-coloured breasts with rust-red spots
and stripes. It was a wonderful sight, those eagle-like hawks, with
their blue hooked beaks and deep-set dark piercing eyes, sitting in
numbers on the rocks, and others and still others dropping down from
the sky to increase the gathering.

Then the woman sat down by Martin's side, and after a while one of
the hawks spread his great wings and rose up into the air to resume
his flight. After an interval of a minute or so another rose, then
another, but it was an hour before they were all gone.

"O the dear birds--they are all gone!" cried Martin. "Mother, where
are they going?"

She told him of a far-away land in the south, from which, when
autumn comes, the birds migrate north to a warmer country hundreds
of leagues away, and that birds of all kinds were now travelling
north, and would be travelling through the sky above them for many
days to come.

Martin looked up at the sky, and said he could see no birds now that
the buzzards were all gone.

"I can see them," she returned, looking up and glancing about the sky.

"O mother, I wish I could see them!" he cried. "Why can't I see them
when you can?"

"Because your eyes are not like mine. Look, can you see this?" and
she held up a small stone phial which she took from her bosom.

He took it in his hand and unstopped and smelt at it. "Is it honey?
Can I taste it?" he asked.

She laughed. "It is better than honey, but you can't eat it!" she
said. "Do you remember how the honey made you feel like a snake?
This would make you see what I see if I put some of it on your eyes."
He begged her to do so, and she consenting poured a little into the
palm of her hand. It was thick and white as milk; then taking some
on her finger tip, she made him hold his eyes wide open while she
rubbed it on the eye-balls. It made his eyes smart, and everything
at first looked like a blue mist when he tried to see; then slowly
the mist faded away and the air had a new marvellous clearness, and
when he looked away over the plain beneath them he shouted for joy,
so far could he see and so distinct did distant objects appear. At
one point where nothing but the grey haze that obscured the distance
had been visible, a herd of wild cattle now appeared, scattered about,
some grazing, others lying down ruminating, and in the midst of the
herd a very noble-looking, tawny-coloured bull was standing.

"O mother, do you see that bull?" cried Martin in delight.

"Yes, I see him," she returned. "Sometimes he brings his herd to
feed on the hillside, and when I see him here another time I shall
take you to him, and put you on his back. But look now at the sky,
Martin."

He looked up, and was astonished to see numbers of great birds
flying north, where no birds had appeared before. They were miles
high, and invisible to ordinary sight, but he could see them so
distinctly, their shape and colours, that all the birds he knew were
easily recognized. There were swans, shining white, with black heads
and necks, flying in wedge-shaped flocks, and rose-coloured
spoonbills, and flamingoes with scarlet wings tipped with black, and
ibises, and ducks of different colours, and many other birds, both
water and land, appeared, flock after flock, all flying as fast as
their wings could bear them towards the north.

He continued watching them until it was past noon, and then he saw
fewer and fewer, only very big birds, appearing; and then these were
seen less and less until there were none. Then he turned his eyes on
the plain and tried to find the herd of wild cattle, but they were
no longer visible; it was as he had seen it in the morning with the
pale blue haze over all the distant earth. He was told that the
power to see all distant things with a vision equal to his mother's
was now exhausted, and when he grieved at the loss she comforted him
with the promise that it would be renewed at some other time.

[Illustration: ]

Now one day when they were out together Martin was greatly surprised
and disturbed at a change in his mother. When he spoke to her she
was silent; and byand-by, drawing a little away, he looked at her
with a fear which increased to a kind of terror, so strangely
altered did she seem, standing motionless, gazing fixedly with
wide-open eyes at the plain beneath them, her whole face white and
drawn with a look of rage. He had an impulse to fly from her and
hide himself in some hole in the rocks from the sight of that pale,
wrathful face, but when he looked round him he was afraid to move
from her, for the hill itself seemed changed, and now looked black
and angry even as she did. The ground he stood on, the grey old
stones covered with silvery-white and yellow lichen and pretty
flowery, creeping plants, so beautiful to look at in the bright
sunlight a few moments ago, now were covered with a dull mist which
appeared to be rising from them, making the air around them dark and
strange. And the air, too, had become sultry and close, and the sky
was growing dark above them. Then suddenly remembering all her love
and kindness he flew to her, and clinging to her dress sobbed out,
"O mother, mother, what is it?"

She put her hand on him, then drew him up to her side, with his feet
on the stone she was standing by. "Would you like to see what I see,
Martin?" she asked, and taking the phial from her bosom she rubbed
the white thick liquid on his eye-balls, and in a little while, when
the mistiness passed off, she pointed with her hand and told him to
look there.

He looked, and as on the former occasion, all distant things were
clearly visible, for although that mist and blackness given off by
the hill had wrapped them round so that they seemed to be standing
in the midst of a black cloud, yet away on the plain beneath the sun
was shining brightly, and all that was there could be seen by him.
Where he had once seen a herd of wild cattle he now saw mounted men,
to the number of about a dozen, slowly riding towards the hill, and
though they were miles away he could see them very distinctly. They
were dark, black-bearded men, strangely dressed, some with
fawn-coloured cloaks with broad stripes, others in a scarlet uniform,
and they wore cone-shaped scarlet caps. Some carried lances, others
carbines; and they all wore swords--he could see the steel scabbards
shining in the sun. As he watched them they drew rein and some of
them got off their horses, and they stood for some time as if
talking excitedly, pointing towards the hill and using emphatic
gestures.

What were they talking about so excitedly? thought Martin. He wanted
to know, and he would have asked her, but when he looked up at her
she was still gazing fixedly at them with the same pale face and
terrible stern expression, and he could but dimly see her face in
that black cloud which had closed around them. He trembled with fear
and could only murmur, "Mother! mother!" Then her arm was put round
him, and she drew him close against her side, and at that moment--O
how terrible it was!--the black cloud and the whole universe was lit
up with a sudden flash that seemed to blind and scorch him, and the
hill and the world was shaken and seemed to be shattered by an awful
thunder crash. It was more than he could endure: he ceased to feel
or know anything, and was like one dead, and when he came to himself
and opened his eyes he was lying in her lap with her face smiling
very tenderly, bending over him.

"O, poor little Martin," she said, "what a poor, weak little boy you
are to lose your senses at the lightning and thunder! I was angry
when I saw them coming to the hill, for they are wicked, cruel men,
stained with blood, and I made the storm to drive them away. They
are gone, and the storm is over now, and it is late--come, let us go
to our cave;" and she took him up and carried him in her arms.



CHAPTER XVI


THE PEOPLE OF THE MIST

When Martin first came to the hills it was at the end of the long,
hot, dry summer of that distant land: it was autumn now, and the
autumn was like a second summer, only not so hot and dry as the first.
But sometimes at this season a wet mist came up from the sea by
night and spread over all the country, covering it like a cloud; to
a soaring bird looking down from the sky it must have appeared like
another sea of a pale or pearly grey colour, with the hills rising
like islands from it. When the sun rose in the morning, if the sky
was clear so that it could shine, then the sea-fog would drift and
break up and melt away or float up in the form of thin white clouds.
Now, whenever this sea-mist was out over the world the Lady of the
Hills, without coming out of her chamber, knew of it, and she would
prevent Martin from leaving the bed and going out. He loved to be
out on the hill-side, to watch the sun come up, and she would say to
him, "You cannot see the sun because of the mist; and it is cold and
wet on the hill; wait until the mist has gone and then you shall go
out."

But now a new idea came into her mind. She had succeeded in making
him happy during the last few days; but she wished to do more--she
wished to make him fear and hate the sea so that he would never grow
discontented with his life on the hills nor wish to leave her. So now,
one morning, when the mist was out over the land, she said to Martin
when he woke, "Get up and go out on to the hill and see the mist;
and when you feel its coldness and taste its salt on your lips, and
see how it dims and saddens the earth, you will know better than to
wish for that great water it comes from."

So Martin got up and went out on the hill, and it was as she had said:
there was no blue sky above, no wide green earth before him: the
mist had blotted all out; he could hardly see the rocks and bushes a
dozen yards from him; the leaves and flowers were heavy laden with
the grey wet; and it felt clammy and cold on his face, and he tasted
its salt on his lips. It seemed thickest and darkest when he looked
down and lightest when he looked up, and the lightness led him to
climb up among the dripping, slippery rocks; and slipping and
stumbling he went on and on, the light increasing as he went, until
at last to his delight he got above the mist. There was an immense
crag there which stood boldly up on the hillside, and on to this he
managed to climb, and standing on it he looked down upon that vast
moving sea of grey mist that covered the earth, and saw the sun, a
large crimson disc, rising from it.

It was a great thing to see, and made him cry out aloud for joy: and
then as the sun rose higher into the pure, blue sky the grey mist
changed to silvery white, and the white changed in places to shining
gold: and it drifted faster and faster away before the sun, and
began to break up, and when a cloud of mist swept by the rock on
which he stood it beat like a fine rain upon his face, and covered
his bright clothes with a grey beady moisture.

Now, looking abroad over the earth, it appeared to Martin that the
thousands and tens and hundreds of thousands of fragments of mist,
had the shapes of men, and were like an innumerable multitude of
gigantic men with shining white faces and shining golden hair and
long cloud-like robes of a pearly grey colour, that trailed on the
earth as they moved. They were like a vast army covering the whole
earth, all with their faces set towards the west, all moving swiftly
and smoothly on towards the west. And he saw that every one held his
robes to his breast with his left hand, and that in his right hand,
raised to the level of his head, he carried a strange object. This
object was a shell--a big sea-shell of a golden yellow colour with
curved pink lips; and very soon one of the mist people came near him,
and as he passed by the rock he held the shell to Martin's ear, and
it sounded in his ear--a low, deep murmur as of waves breaking on a
long shingled beach, and Martin knew, though no word was spoken to
him, that it was the sound of the sea, and tears of delight came to
his eyes, and at the same time his heart was sick and sad with
longing for the sea.

[Illustration: ]

Again and again, until the whole vast multitude of the mist people
had gone by, a shell was held to his ear; and when they were all gone,
when he had watched them fade like a white cloud over the plain, and
float away and disappear in the blue sky, he sat down on the rock
and cried with the desire that was in him.

When his mother found him with traces of tears on his cheeks; and he
was silent when she spoke to him, and had a strange look in his eyes
as if they were gazing at some distant object, she was angrier than
ever with the sea, for she knew that the thought of it had returned
to him and that it would be harder than ever to keep him.

One morning on waking he found her still asleep, although the traces
of tears on her cheeks showed that she had been awake and crying
during the night.

"Ah, now I know why she cries every morning," thought Martin;
"it is because I must go away and leave her here alone on the hills."

He was out of her arms and dressed in a very few moments, moving
very softly lest she should wake; but though he knew that if she
awoke she would not let him go, he could not leave her without
saying goodbye. And so coming near he stooped over her and very
gently kissed her soft cheek and sweet mouth and murmured, "Good-bye,
sweet mother." Then, very cautiously, like a shy, little wild animal
he stole out of the cavern. Once outside, in the early morning light,
he started running as fast as he could, jumping from stone to stone
in the rough places, and scrambling through the dew-laden bushes and
creepers, until, hot and panting, he arrived down at the very foot
of the hill.

Then it was easier walking, and he went on a little until he heard a
voice crying, "Martin! Martin!" and, looking back, he saw the Lady
of the Hills standing on a great stone near the foot of the mountain,
gazing sadly after him. "Martin, oh, my child, come back to me," she
called, stretching out her arms towards him. "Oh, Martin, I cannot
leave the hills to follow you and shield you from harm and save you
from death, Where will you go? Oh me, what shall I do without you?"

For a little while he stood still, listening with tears in his eyes
to her words, and wavering in his mind; but very soon he thought of
the great blue water once more and could not go back, but began to
run again, and went on and on for a long distance before stopping to
rest. Then he looked back, but he could no longer see her form
standing there on the stone.

All that day he journeyed on towards the ocean over a great plain.
There was no trees and no rocks nor hills, only grass on the level
earth, in some places so tall that the spikes, looking like great
white ostrich plumes, waved high above his head. But it was easy
walking, as the grass grew in tussocks or bunches, and underneath
the ground was bare and smooth so that he could walk easily between
the bunches.

He wondered that he did not get to the sea, but it was still far off,
and so the long summer day wore to an end, and he was so tired that
he could scarcely lift his legs to walk. Then, as he went slowly on
in the fading light, where the grass was short and the evening
primroses were opening and filling the desert air with their sweet
perfume, he all at once saw a little grey old man not above six
inches in height standing on the ground right before him, and
staring fixedly at him with great, round, yellow eyes.

[Illustration: ]

"You bad boy!" exclaimed this curious, little, old man; whereupon
Martin stopped in his walk and stood still, gazing in the greatest
surprise at him.

"You bad boy!" repeated the strange little man.

The more Martin stared at him the harder he stared back at Martin,
always with the same unbending severity in his small, round, grey
face. He began to feel a little afraid, and was almost inclined to
run away; then he thought it would be funny to run from such a very
small man as this, so he stared bravely back once more and cried out,
"Go away!"

"You bad boy!" answered the little grey man without moving.

"Perhaps he's deaf, just like that other old man," said Martin to
himself, and throwing out his arms he shouted at the top of his voice,
"Go away!"

And away with a scream he went, for it was only a little grey
burrowing owl after all! Martin laughed a little at his own
foolishness in mistaking that common bird he was accustomed to see
every day for a little old man.

By-and-by, feeling very tired, he sat down to rest, and just where
he sat grew a plant with long white flowers like tall thin goblets
in shape. Sitting on the grass he could see right into one of the
flower-tubes, and presently he noticed a little, old, grey,
shrivelled woman in it, very, very small, for she was not longer
than the nail of his little finger. She wore a grey shawl that
dragged behind her, and kept getting under her feet and tripping her
up. She was most active, whisking about this way and that inside the
flower; and at intervals she turned to stare at Martin, who kept
getting nearer and nearer to watch her until his face nearly touched
the flower; and whenever she looked at him she wore an exceedingly
severe expression on her small dried-up countenance. It seemed to
Martin that she was very angry with him for some reason. Then she
would turn her back on him, and tumble about in the tube of the
flower, and gathering up the ends of her shawl in her arms begin
dusting with great energy; then hurrying out once more she would
shake the dust from her big, funny shawl in his eyes. At last he
carefully raised a hand and was just going to take hold of the queer,
little, old dame with his forefinger and thumb when up she flew. It
was only a small, grey, twilight moth!

Very much puzzled and confused, and perhaps a little frightened at
these curious deceptions, he laid himself down on the grass and shut
his eyes so as to go to sleep; but no sooner had he shut his eyes
than he heard a soft, soft little voice calling, "Martin! Martin!"

He started up and listened. It was only a field cricket singing in
the grass. But often as he lay down and closed his eyes the small
voice called again, plainly as possible, and oh so sadly, "Martin!
Martin!"

It made him remember his beautiful mother, now perhaps crying alone
in the cave on the mountain, no little Martin resting on her bosom,
and he cried to think of it. And still the small voice went on,
calling, "Martin! Martin!" sadder than ever, until, unable to endure
it longer, he jumped up and ran away a good distance, and at last,
too tired to go any further, he crept into a tussock of tall grass
and went to sleep.



CHAPTER XVII


THE OLD MAN OF THE SEA

Next day Martin journeyed on in the old way, jumping up and taking a
good long run, then dropping into a trot, then a walk, and finally
sitting down to rest. Then up again and another run, and so on. But
although feeling hungry and thirsty, he was so full of the thought
of the great blue water he was going to see, so eager to look upon
it at last after wishing for it so long, that he hardly gave himself
any time to hunt for food. Nor did he think of his mother of the
hills, alone to-day, and grieving at his loss, so excited was he at
the prospect of what lay before him.

A little past noon he began to hear a low murmuring sound that
seemed in the earth beneath him, and all about him, and in the air
above him; but he did not know that it was the sound of the sea. At
length he came to a place where the earth rose up in long ridges of
yellow sand, on which nothing grew but scattered tufts of stiff,
yellow grass. As he toiled over the loose sand, sometimes sinking
ankle-deep in it, the curious deep murmuring sound he had heard for
so long grew louder and louder, until it was like the sound of a
mighty wind in a wood, but deeper and hoarser, rising and falling,
and at intervals broken by great throbs, as of thunder echoed and
re-echoed among the distant hills. At length he had toiled over the
last ridge of sand; and then all at once the world--his world of
solid earth at all events--came to an abrupt end; for no more ground
on which to set a foot was before him, but only the ocean--that
ocean which he had wanted so badly, and had loved at a distance more
than the plains and hills, and all they contained to delight him!
How wide, how vast it was, stretching away to where it melted into
the low sky, its immense grey-blue surface broken into ten thousand
thousand waves, lit with white crests that came in sight and
vanished like lightning flashes! How tremendous, how terrible it was
in its agitation--O the world had nothing to compare with it,
nothing to hold his heart after it; and it was well that the earth
was silent, that it only gazed upon it with the sun and moon and
stars, listening day and night for ever to the great voice of the sea!

Only by lying flat on his chest could Martin look down over the edge
of the awful cliff, which is one of the highest in the world; and
then the sight of the sea swirling and beating at the foot of that
stupendous black precipice, sending up great clouds of spray in its
fury, made him shudder, it was so awful to look upon. But he could
not stir from that spot; there he stayed lying flat on his chest,
gazing and gazing, feeling neither hunger nor thirst, forgetful of
the beautiful woman he had called mother, and of everything besides.
And as he gazed, little by little, that great tumult of the waves
grew less; they no longer lifted themselves up, wave following wave,
to beat upon the cliff, and make it tremble; but sank lower and lower;
and at last drew off from the precipice, leaving at its foot a long
narrow strip of sand and shingle exposed to sight. A solemn calm
fell upon the waste of waters; only near the shore it continued to
move a little, rising and falling like the chest of a sleeping giant,
while along the margin small waves continued to form and break in
white foam on the shingle with a perpetual low, moaning sound.
Further out it was quite calm, its surface everywhere flushed with
changing violet, green, and rosy tints: in a little while these
lovely colours faded as from a sunset cloud, and it was all deep
dark blue: for the sun had gone, and the shadows of evening were
over land and sea. Then Martin, his little heart filled with a great
awe and a great joy, crept away a few yards from the edge of the
cliff and coiled himself up to sleep in a hollow in the soft warm
sand.

On the following morning, after satisfying his hunger and thirst
with some roots which he had not to go very far to find, he returned
to watch the sea once more, and there he remained, never removing his
eyes from the wonderful scene until the sun was directly over his
head; then, when the sea was calm once more, he got up and started
to walk along the cliff.

Keeping close to the edge, occasionally stopping to lie down on his
chest and peer over, he went on and on for hours, until the
afternoon tide once more covered the strip of shingled beach, and
the waves rising high began to beat with a sound like thunder
against the tremendous cliff, making the earth tremble under him. At
length he came to a spot where there was a great gap in the line of
the cliff, where in past times a portion of it had tumbled down, and
the stupendous masses of rock had rolled far out into the sea, and
now formed islands of black jagged rock, standing high above the
water. Here among the rocks the sea boiled and roared its loudest,
churning its waters into masses of white froth. Here a fresh wonder
met his sight: a number of big animals unlike any creature he had
ever seen before were lying prone on the rocks just out of the reach
of the waves that beat round them. At first they looked like cows,
then he saw that they had neither horns nor legs, that their heads
were like dog's but without ears, and that they had two great
flapper-shaped feet on their chests with which they walked or
crawled upon the rocks whenever a wave broke on them, causing them
to move a little higher.

[Illustration: ]

They were sea-lions, a very big sort of seal, but Martin had never
heard of such a creature, and being anxious to look more closely at
them he went into the gap, and began cautiously climbing down over
the broken masses of rock and clay until he got quite near the sea.
Lying there on a flat rock he became absorbed in watching these
strange dog-headed legless cattle of the sea; for he now had them
near, and they could see him, and occasionally one would lift its
head and gaze earnestly at him out of large dark eyes that were soft
and beautiful like the eyes of the doe that came to him on the hills.
O how glad he was to know that the sea, the mighty waters roaring so
loud as if in wrath, had its big beasts too for him to love, like
the hills and plains with their cattle and deer and horses!

But the tide was still rising, and very soon the biggest waves began
to come quite over the rocks, rolling the big beasts over and even
washing them off, and it angered them when the waves struck them,
and they roared aloud, and by and by they began to go away, some
disappearing beneath the water, others with heads above the surface
swimming away out into the open sea, until all were gone. Martin was
sorry to lose them, but the sight of the sea tumbling and foaming on
the rocks still held him there, until all the rocks but one had been
covered by the waters, and this one was a great black jagged rock
close to the shore, not above twenty or thirty yards from him.
Against this mass of rock the waves continued to dash themselves
with a mighty noise, sending up a cloud of white foam and spray at
every blow. The sight and sound fascinated him. The sea appeared to
be talking, whispering, and murmuring, and crying out aloud to him in
such a manner that he actually began trying to make out what it was
saying. Then up would come a great green wave rushing and moaning,
to dash itself to pieces right before his face; and each time it
broke against the rock, and rose high up it took a fantastic shape
that began to look more and more the shape of a man. Yes, it was
unmistakably like a monstrous grey old man, with a vast snow-white
beard, and a world of disordered white hair floating over and around
its head. At all events it was white for a moment, then it looked
green--a great green beard which the old man took with his two hands
and twisted just as a washerwoman twists a blanket or counterpane,
so as to wring the water out of it.

Martin stared at this strange uncouth visitor from the sea; while he
in turn, leaning over the rock, stared back into Martin's face with
his immense fishy eyes.

Every time a fresh wave broke over him, lifting up his hair and
garments, which were of brown seaweed and all rags and tatters, it
seemed to annoy him somewhat; but he never stirred; and when the
wave retired he would wring the water out once more and blow a cloud
of sea-spray from his beard. At length, holding out his mighty arms
towards Martin, he opened his great, cod-fish mouth, and burst into
a hoarse laugh, which sounded like the deep laughter-like cries of
the big, black-backed gulls. Still, Martin did not feel at all
afraid of him, for he looked good-natured and friendly.

"Who are you?" shouted Martin at last.

"Who be I?" returned the man-shaped monster in a hoarse, sea-like
voice. "Ho, ho, ho,--now I calls that a good un! Why, little Martin,
that I've knowed all along, I be Bill. Leastways, that's what they
called me afore: but I got promotion, and in consekence I'm called
the Old Man of the Sea."

"And how did you know I was Martin?"

"How did I know as you was Martin? Why, bless your innocent heart, I
knowed it all along of course. How d'ye think I wouldn't know that?
Why, I no sooner saw you there among them rocks than I says to myself,
'Hullo,' says I, bless my eyes if that ain't Martin looking at my
cows, as I calls 'em. Of course I knowed as you was Martin."

"And what made you go and live in the sea, Old--Bill?" questioned
Martin, "and why did you grow so big?"

[Illustration: ]

"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the giant, blowing a great cloud of spray from
his lips. "I don't mind telling you that. You see, Martin, I ain't
pressed for time. Them blessed bells is nothing to me now, not being
in the foc'sle trying to git a bit of a snooze. Well, to begin, I
were born longer ago than I can tell in a old town by the sea, and
my father he were a sailor man, and was drowned when I were very
small; then my mother she died just becoz every man that belonged to
her was drowned. For those as lives by the sea, Martin, mostly dies
in the sea. Being a orphan I were brought up by Granny. I were very
small then, and used to go and play all day in the marshes, and I
loved the cows and water-rats and all the little beasties, same as
you, Martin. When I were a bit growed Granny says to me one day,
'Bill, you go to sea and be a sailor-boy,' she says, 'becoz I've had
a dream,' she says, 'and it's wrote that you'll never git drowned.'
For you see, Martin, my Granny were a wise woman. So to the sea I
goes, and boy and man, I was on a many voyages to Turkey and Injy
and the Cape and the West Coast and Ameriky, and all round the world
forty times over. Many and many's the time I was shipwrecked and
overboard, but I never got drowned. At last, when I were gitting a
old man, and not much use by reason of the rheumatiz and stiffness
in the jints, there was a mutiny in our ship when we was off the Cape;
and the captain and mate they was killed. Then comes my turn, becoz
I went again the men, d'ye see, and they wasn't a-going for to
pardon me that. So out they had me on deck and began to talk about
how they'd finish me--rope, knife, or bullet. 'Mates,' says I 'shoot
me if you like and I'll dies comforbly; or run a knife into me,
which is better still; or string me up to the yard-arm, which is the
most comforble thing I know. But don't you go and put me into the sea,'
says I, 'becoz it's wrote that I ain't never going to git drowned,
and you'll have all your trouble for nothing,' says I. That made 'em
larf a most tremenjous larf. 'Old Bill,' says they, 'will have his
little joke.' Then they brings up some iron stowed in the hold, and
with ropes and chains they ties well-nigh half a ton of it to my
legs and arms, then lowers me over the side. Down I wrent, in course,
which made 'em larf louder than afore; and I were fathoms and
fathoms under water afore I stopped hearing them larf. At last I
comes down to the bottom of the sea, and glad I were to git there,
becoz now I couldn't go no further. There I lies doubled up like a
old sea-sarpint along of the rocks, but warm and comforble like.
Last of all, the ropes and chains they got busted off becoz of my
growing so big and strong down there, and up I comes to blow like a
grampus, for I were full of water by reason that it had soaked into
me. So that's how I got to be the Old Man of the Sea, hundreds and
hundreds of years ago."

"And do you like to be always in the sea, Old Bill?" asked Martin.

"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the monster. "That's a good un, little Martin!
Do I like it? Well, it's better than being a sailor man in a ship, I
can tell 'ee. That were a hard life, with nothing good except perhaps
the baccy. I were very fond of baccy once before the sea put out my
pipe. Likewise of rum. Many's the time I've been picked up on shore
that drunk, Martin, you wouldn't believe it, I were that fond of rum.
Sometimes, down here, when I remember how good it tasted, I open my
mouth wide and takes down a big gulp of sea water, enough to fill a
hogshead; then I comes up and blows it all out again just like a old
grampus."

And having said this, he opened his vast cavernous mouth and roared
out his hoarse ho, ho, ho! louder than before, and at the same time
he rose up higher above the water and the black rock he had been
leaning on, until he stood like a stupendous tower above Martin--a
man-shaped tower of water and spray, and white froth and brown
seaweed. Then he slowly fell backwards out upon the sea, and falling
upon the sea caused so mighty a wave that it went high over the
black rock and washed the face of the cliff, sweeping Martin back
among the rocks.

When the great wave retired, and Martin, half-choked with water and
half-dazed, struggled on to his feet, he saw that it was night, and
a cloudy, black sky was above, and the black sea beneath him. He had
not seen the light fade, and had perhaps fallen asleep and seen and
talked with that old sea monster in a dream. But now he could not
escape from his position down in the gap, just above the roaring
waves. There he had to stay, sheltered in a cavity in the rock, and
lying there, half sleeping and half waking, he had that great voice
of the sea in his ears all night.



CHAPTER XVIII


MARTIN PLAYS WITH THE WAVES

After a night spent in the roar of the sea, a drenched and bruised
prisoner among the rocks, it was nice to see the dawn again. No
sooner was it light than Martin set about trying to make his escape.
He had been washed by that big wave into a deep cleft among the
rocks and masses of hard clay, and shut in there he could not see the
water nor anything excepting a patch of sky above him. Now he began
climbing over the stones and crawling and forcing himself through
crevices and other small openings, making a little progress, for he
was sore from his bruises and very weak from his long fast, and at
intervals, tired and beaten, he would drop down crying with pain and
misery. But Martin was by nature a very resolute little boy, and
after two or three minutes' rest his tears would cease, and he would
be up struggling on determinedly as before. He was like some little
wild animal when it finds itself captive in a cage or box or room,
who tries without ceasing to find a way out. There may be no way,
but it will not give up trying to find one. And at last, after so
much trying, Martin's efforts were rewarded: he succeeded in getting
into the steep passage by which he had come down to the sea on the
previous day, and in the end got to the top of the cliff once more.
It was a great relief, and after resting a little while he began to
feel glad and happy at the sight before him: there was the glorious
sea again, not as he had seen it before, its wide surface roughened
by the wind and flecked with foam; for now the water was smooth, but
not still; it rose and fell in vast rollers, or long waves that were
like ridges, wave following wave in a very grand and ordered manner.
And as he gazed, the clouds broke and floated away, and the sky grew
clear and bright, and then all at once the great red sun came up out
of the waters!

But it was impossible for him to stay there longer when there was
nothing to eat; his extreme hunger compelled him to get up and leave
the cliff and the sandy hills behind it; and then for an hour or two
he walked feebly about searching for sweet roots, but finding none.
It would have gone hard with him then if he had not seen some low,
dark-looking bushes at a distance on the dry, yellow plain, and gone
to them. They looked like yew-bushes, and when he got to them he
found that they were thickly covered with small berries; on some
bushes they were purple-black, on others crimson, but all were ripe,
and many small birds were there feasting on them. The berries were
pleasant to the taste, and he feasted with the little birds on them
until his hunger was satisfied; and then, with his mouth and fingers
stained purple with the juice, he went to sleep in the shade of one
of the bushes. There, too, he spent the whole of that day and the
night, hearing the low murmur of the sea when waking, and when
morning came he was strong and happy once more, and, after filling
himself with the fruit, set off to the sea again.

Arrived at the cliff, he began walking along the edge, and in about
an hour's time came to the end of it, for there it sloped down to
the water, and before him, far as he could see, there was a wide,
shingled beach with low sand-hills behind it. With a shout of joy he
ran down to the margin, and the rest of that day he spent dabbling
in the water, gathering beautiful shells and seaweed and
strangely-painted pebbles into heaps, then going on and on again,
still picking up more beautiful riffraff on the margin, only to leave,
it all behind him at last. Never had he spent a happier day, and
when it came to an end he found a sheltered spot not far from the sea,
so that when he woke in the night he would still hear the deep, low
murmur of the waves on the beach.

Many happy days he spent in the same way, with no living thing to
keep him company, except the little white and grey sanderlings that
piped so shrill and clear as they flitted along the margin before him;
and the great sea-gulls that uttered hoarse, laughter-like cries as
they soared and hovered above his head. "Oh, happy birds!" exclaimed
Martin, clapping his hands, and shouting in answer to their cries.

Every day Martin grew more familiar with the sea, and loved it more,
and it was his companion and playmate. He was bolder than the little
restless sanderlings that ran and flitted before the advancing waves,
and so never got their pretty white and grey plumage wet: often he
would turn to meet the coming wave, and let it break round and rush
past him, and then in a moment he would be standing knee-deep in the
midst of a great sheet of dazzling white foam, until with a long
hiss as it fled back, drawing the round pebbles with it, it would be
gone, and he would laugh and shout with glee. What a grand old
play-fellow the sea was! And it loved him, like the big spotted cat
of the hills, and only pretended to be angry with him when it wanted
to play, and would do him no harm. And still he was not satisfied,
but grew bolder and bolder, putting himself in its power and trusting
to its mercy. He could play better with his clothes off; and one day,
chasing a great receding wave as far as it would go, he stood up
bravely to encounter the succeeding wave, but it was greater than
the last, and lifting him in its great green arms it carried him high
up till it broke with a mighty roar on the beach; then instead of
leaving him stranded there it rushed back still bearing him in its
arms out into the deep. Further and further from the shore it
carried him, until he became terrified, and throwing out his little
arms towards the land, he cried aloud, "Mother! Mother!"

He was not calling to his own mother far away on the great plain; he
had forgotten her. Now he only thought of the beautiful woman of the
Hills, who was so strong, and loved him and made him call her
"Mother"; and to her he cried in his need for help. Now he
remembered her warm, protecting bosom, and how she had cried every
night at the fear of losing him; how when he ran from her she
followed him, calling to him to return. Ah, how cold was the sea's
bosom, how bitter its lips!

Struggling still with the great wave, struggling in vain, blinded
and half-choked with salt water, he was driven violently against a
great black object tumbling about in the surf, and with all the
strength of his little hands he clung to it. The water rolled over
him, and beat against him, but he would not lose his hold; and at
last there came a bigger wave and lifted him up and cast him right
on to the object he was clinging to. It was as if some enormous
monster of the sea had caught him up and put him in that place, just
as the Lady of the Hills had often snatched him up from the edge of
some perilous precipice to set him down in a safe place.

There he lay exhausted, stretched out at full length, so tossed
about on the billows that he had a sensation of being in a swing;
but the sea grew quiet at last, and when he looked up it was dark,
the stars glittering in the dim blue vault above, and the smooth,
black water reflecting them all round him, so that he seemed to be
floating suspended between two vast, starry skies, one immeasurably
far above, the other below him. All night, with only the twinkling,
trembling stars for company, he lay there, naked, wet, and cold,
thirsty with the bitter taste of sea-salt in his mouth, never daring
to stir, listening to the continual lapping sound of the water.

Morning dawned at last; the sea was green once more, the sky blue,
and beautiful with the young, fresh light. He was lying on an old
raft of black, water-logged spars and planks lashed together with
chains and rotting ropes. But alas! there was no shore in sight, for
all night long he had been drifting, drifting further and further
away from land.

A strange habitation for Martin, the child of the plain, was that
old raft! It had been made by shipwrecked mariners, long, long ago,
and had floated about the sea until it had become of the sea, like a
half-submerged floating island; brown and many-coloured seaweeds had
attached themselves to it; strange creatures, half plant and half
animal, grew on it; and little shell-fish and numberless slimy,
creeping things of the sea made it their dwelling-place. It was
about as big as the floor of a large room, all rough, black, and
slippery, with the seaweed floating like ragged hair many yards long
around it, and right in the middle of the raft there was a large
hole where the wood had rotted away. Now, it was very curious that
when Martin looked over the side of the raft he could see down into
the clear, green water a few fathoms only; but when he crept to the
edge of the hole and looked into the water there, he was able to see
ten times further down. Looking in this hole, he saw far down a
strange, fish-shaped creature, striped like a zebra, with long
spines on its back, moving about to and fro. It disappeared, and then,
very much further down, something moved, first like a shadow, then
like a great, dark form; and as it came up higher it took the shape
of a man, but dim and vast like a man-shaped cloud or shadow that
floated in the green translucent water. The shoulders and head
appeared; then it changed its position and the face was towards him
with the vast eyes, that had a dim, greyish light in them, gazing up
into his. Martin trembled as he gazed, not exactly with fear, but
with excitement, because he recognized in this huge water-monster
under him that Old Man of the Sea who had appeared and talked to him
in his dream when he fell asleep among the rocks. Could it be,
although he was asleep at the time, that the Old Man really had
appeared before him, and that his eyes had been open just enough to
see him?

By-and-by the cloud-like face disappeared, and did not return though
he watched for it a long time. Then sitting on the black, rotten
wood and brown seaweed he gazed over the ocean, a vast green, sunlit
expanse with no shore and no living thing upon it. But after a while
he began to think that there was some living thing in it, which was
always near him though he could not see what it was. From time to
time the surface of the sea was broken just as if some huge fish had
risen to the surface and then sunk again without showing itself. It
was something very big, judging from the commotion it made in the
water; and at last he did see it or a part of it--a vast brown
object which looked like a gigantic man's shoulder, but it might
have been the back of a whale. It was no sooner seen than gone, but
in a very short time after its appearance cries as of birds were
heard at a great distance. The cries came from various directions,
growing louder and louder, and before long Martin saw many birds
flying towards him.

On arrival they began to soar and circle round above him, all
screaming excitedly. They were white birds with long wings and long
sharp beaks, and were very much like gulls, except that they had an
easier and swifter flight.

Martin rejoiced at seeing them, for he had been in the greatest
terror at the strangeness and loneliness of the sea now that there
was no land in sight. Sitting on the black raft he was constantly
thinking of the warning words his mother of the hills had spoken
--that the sea would kiss him with cold salt lips and take him down
into the depths where he would never see the light again. O how
strange the sea was to him now, how lonely, how terrible! But birds
that with their wings could range over the whole world were of the
land, and now seemed to bring the land near him with their white
forms and wild cries. How could they help him? He did not know, he
did not ask; but he was not alone now that they had come to him, and
his terror was less.

And still more birds kept coming; and as the morning wore on the
crowd of birds increased until they were in hundreds, then in
thousands, perpetually wheeling and swooping and rising and hovering
over him in a great white cloud. And they were of many kinds, mostly
white, some grey, others sooty brown or mottled, and some wholly
black. Then in the midst of the crowrd of birds he saw one of great
size wheeling about like a king or giant among the others, with wings
of amazing length, wild eyes of a glittering yellow, and a yellow
beak half as long as Martin's arm, with a huge vulture-like hook at
the end. Now when this mighty bird swooped close down over his head,
fanning him with its immense wings, Martin again began to be alarmed
at its formidable appearance; and as more and more birds came, with
more of the big kind, and the wild outcry they made increased, his
fear and astonishment grew; then all at once these feelings rose to
extreme terror and amazement at the sight of a new bird-like
creature a thousand times bigger than the largest one in the
circling crowd above, coming swiftly towards him. He saw that it was
not flying but swimming or gliding over the surface of the sea; and
its body was black, and above the body were many immense white wings
of various shapes, which stood up like a white cloud.

Overcome with terror he fell flat on the raft, hiding his face in
the brown seaweed that covered it; then in a few minutes the sea
became agitated and rocked him in his raft, and a wave came over him
which almost swept him into the sea. At the same time the outcry of
the birds were redoubled until he was nearly deafened by their
screams, and the screams seemed to shape themselves into words.
"Martin! Martin!" the birds seemed to be screaming. "Look up, Martin,
look up, look up!" The whole air above and about him seemed to be
full of the cries, and every cry said to him, "Martin! Martin! lookup!
lookup!"

[Illustration: ]

Although dazed with the awful din and almost fainting with terror
and weakness, he could not resist the command. Pressing his hands on
the raft he at last struggled up to his knees, and saw that the
feared bird-like monster had passed him by: he saw that it was a
ship with a black hull, its white sails spread, and that the motion
of the water and the wave that swept over him had been created by
the ship as it came close to the raft. It was now rapidly gliding
from him, but still very near, and he saw a crowd of strange-looking
rough men, with sun-browned faces and long hair and shaggy beards,
leaning over the bulwarks staring at him. They had seen with
astonishment the corpse, as they thought, of a little naked white
boy lying on the old black raft, with a multitude of sea-birds
gathered to feed on him; now when they saw him get up on his knees
and look at them, they uttered a great cry, and began rushing
excitedly hither and thither, to pull at ropes and lower a boat.
Martin did not know what they were doing; he only knew that they
were men in a ship, but he was now too weak and worn-out to look at
or think of more than one thing at a time, and what he was looking at
now was the birds. For no sooner had he looked up and seen the ship
than their wild cries ceased, and they rose up and up like a white
cloud to scatter far and wide over sky and sea. For some moments he
continued watching them, listening to their changed voices, which
now had a very soft and pleasant sound, as if they were satisfied
and happy. It made him happy to hear them, and he lifted his hands
up and smiled; then, relieved of his terror and overcome with
weariness, he closed his eyes and dropped once more full length upon
his bed of wet seaweed. At that the men stared into each other's face,
a very strange startled look coming into their eyes. And no wonder!
For long, long months, running to years, they had been cruising in
those lonely desolate seas, thousands of miles from home, seeing no
land nor any green thing, nor dear face of woman or child: and now
by some strange chance a child had come to them, and even while they
were making all haste to rescue it, putting their arms out to take
it from the sea, its life had seemingly been snatched from them!

But he was only sleeping.

[Illustration: ]


NOTE


_When I arranged with Mr. Hudson for the publication of an
American Edition of_ A Little Boy Lost, _I asked him to write a
special foreword to his American readers. He replied with a
characteristic letter, and, taking him at his word. I am printing it
on the following pages_.

   ALFRED A. KNOPF.


  _Dear Mr. Knopf_:

    Your request for a Foreword to insert in the American
    reprint of the little book worries me. A critic on
    this side has said that my Prefaces to reprints of my
    earlier works are of the nature of parting kicks, and I
    have no desire just now to kick this poor innocent.
    That evil-tempered old woman, Mother Nature, in one
    of her worst tantrums, has been inflicting so many cuffs
    and blows on me that she has left me no energy or disposition
    to kick anything--even myself.

    The trouble is that I know so little about it. Did
    I write this book? What then made me do it?

    In reading a volume of Fors Clavigera I once came
    upon a passage which sounded well but left me in a
    mist, and it relieved me to find a footnote to it in which
    the author says: "This passage was written many
    years ago and what I was thinking about at the time
    has quite escaped my memory. At all events, though
    I let it stand, I can find no meaning in it now."

    Little men may admire but must not try to imitate
    these gestures of the giants. And as a result of a little
    quiet thinking it over I seem able to recover the idea
    I had in my mind when I composed this child's story
    and found a title for it in Blake. Something too of the
    semi-wild spirit of the child hero in the lines:

      "Naught loves another as itself....
      And, father, how can I love you
      Or any of my brothers more?
      I love you like the little birds
      That pick up crumbs about the door."

    There nature is, after picking up the crumbs to fly
    away.

    A long time ago I formed a small collection of children's
    books of the early years of the nineteenth century;
    and looking through them, wishing that some of
    them had fallen into my hands when I was a child I
    recalled the books I had read at that time--especially
    two or three. Like any normal child I delighted in
    such stories as the Swiss Family Robinson, but they
    were not the books I prized most; they omitted the very
    quality I liked best--the little thrills that nature itself
    gave me, which half frightened and fascinated at the
    same time, the wonder and mystery of it all. Once in a
    while I got a book with something of this rare element
    in it, contained perhaps in some perfectly absurd
    narrative of animals taking human shape or using human
    speech, with such like transformations and vagaries;
    they could never be too extravagant, fantastic and incredible,
    so long as they expressed anything of the feeling
    I myself experienced when out of sight and sound
    of my fellow beings, whether out on the great level
    plain, with a glitter of illusory water all round me, or
    among the shadowy trees with their bird and insect
    sounds, or by the waterside and bed of tall dark bullrushes
    murmuring in the wind.

    These ancient memories put it in my mind to write
    a book which, I imagined, would have suited my peculiar
    taste of that early period, the impossible story
    to be founded on my own childish impressions and adventures,
    with a few dreams and fancies thrown in and
    two or three native legends and myths, such as the one
    of the Lady of the Hills, the incarnate spirit of the
    rocky Sierras on the great plains, about which I heard
    from my gaucho comrades when on the spot--the
    strange woman seldom viewed by human eyes who is
    jealous of man's presence and is able to create sudden
    violent tempests to frighten them from her sacred
    haunts.

    That's the story of my story, and to the question in
    your publisher's practical mind, I'm sorry to have to
    say I don't know. I have no way of finding out, since
    children are not accustomed to write to authors to tell
    them what they think of their books. And after all
    these excuses it just occurs to me that children do not
    read forewords and introductions; they have to be addressed
    to adults who do not read children's books, so
    that in any case it would be thrown away. Still if a
    foreword you must have, and from me, I think you will
    have to get it out of this letter.

    I remain,

    Yours cordially,
      W. H. HUDSON.

    November 14,1917.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Little Boy Lost" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home