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Title: King of Camargue
Author: Aicard, Jean, 1848-1921
Language: English
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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.

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                     BIBLIOTHÈQUE
                  DES CHEFS-D'OEUVRE
                       DU ROMAN
                     CONTEMPORAIN


                  _KING OF CAMARGUE_


                      JEAN AICARD


            PRINTED FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY BY
          GEORGE BARRIE & SONS, PHILADELPHIA


        COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY GEORGE BARRIE & SON



                   THIS EDITION OF

                   KING OF CAMARGUE

            HAS BEEN COMPLETELY TRANSLATED
                          BY

                    GEORGE B. IVES


                  THE ETCHINGS ARE BY

                     LOUIS V. RUET


                    AND DRAWINGS BY

                      GEORGE ROUX



                    CHEFS-D'OEUVRE
                          DU
                  ROMAN CONTEMPORAIN


                      ROMANCISTS



                     THIS EDITION

             DEDICATED TO THE HONOR OF THE

                  ACADÉMIE FRANÇAISE

   IS LIMITED TO ONE THOUSAND NUMBERED AND REGISTERED
                SETS, OF WHICH THIS IS

                      NUMBER 358



                    THE ROMANCISTS

                      JEAN AICARD

                   KING OF CAMARGUE



  [Illustration: Chapter VI

    _This woman had a way of looking at people that disconcerted
    them. You would say that a sharp, threatening flame shot from
    her eyes. It penetrated your being, searched your heart, and
    you were powerless against it._]



TO ÉMILE TRÉLAT


My Very Dear Friend:

Permit me to dedicate this book to you, whose incomparable friendship
has been to the poet, obstinate in his idealism, of hourly assistance,
a constant proof of the reality of true generosity and kindness of
heart.

                                                Jean Aicard.

    _La Garde, near Toulon, April 11, 1890._



Contents


                                                        PAGE
        I LIVETTE AND ZINZARA                              3

       II IN CAMARGUE                                     13

      III THE DROVERS                                     21

       IV THE SÉDEN                                       27

        V THE LOVERS                                      39

       VI RAMPAL                                          51

      VII THE MEETING                                     57

     VIII ON THE BENCH                                    73

       IX THE PRAYER                                      83

        X THE TERRACE                                     91

       XI THE HIDING-PLACE                                99

      XII A SORCERESS                                    121

     XIII THE SNAKE-CHARMER                              143

      XIV JOUSTING                                       165

       XV MONSIEUR LE CURÉ'S ARCHÆOLOGY                  177

      XVI ON THE ROOF OF THE CHURCH                      205

     XVII THE OLD WOMAN                                  219

    XVIII THE BLESSED RELICS                             231

      XIX THE BRANDING                                   247

       XX THE SNARE                                      261

      XXI HERODIAS                                       279

     XXII IN THE NEST                                    291

    XXIII THE PURSUIT                                    303

     XXIV IN THE GARGATE                                 323

      XXV THE PHANTOM                                    331

          NOTES                                          345



List of Illustrations

KING OF CAMARGUE


                                                        PAGE
    RAMPAL AND THE GIPSY                           _Fronts._

    RENAUD IN THE TOILS OF THE QUEEN                      64

    LIVETTE AND RENAUD                                    88

    LIVETTE WATCHES ON THE CHURCH ROOF                   216

    THE GIPSY'S COUCH                                    312



KING OF CAMARGUE



I

LIVETTE AND ZINZARA


A shadow suddenly darkened the narrow window. Livette, who was running
hither and thither, setting the table for supper, in the lower room of
the farm-house of the Château d'Avignon, gave a little shriek of
terror, and looked up.

The girl had an instinctive feeling that it was neither father nor
grandmother, nor any of her dear ones, but some stranger, who sought
amusement by thus taking her by surprise.

Nor a stranger, either, for that matter,--it was hardly possible!--But
how was it that the dogs did not yelp? Ah! this Camargue is frequented
by bad people, especially at this season, toward the end of May, on
account of the festival of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which attracts,
like a fair, such a crowd of people, thieves and gulls, and so many
mischievous gipsies!

The figure that was leaning on the outside of the window-sill,
shutting out the light, looked to Livette like a black mass, sharply
outlined against the blue sky; but by the thick, curly hair,
surmounted by a tinsel crown, by the general contour of the bust, by
the huge ear-rings with an amulet hanging at the ends, Livette
recognized a certain gipsy woman who was universally known as the
Queen, and who, for nearly two weeks, had been suddenly appearing to
people at widely distant points on the island, always unexpectedly, as
if she rose out of the ditches or clumps of thorn-broom or the water
of the swamps, to say to the laborers, preferably the women: "Give me
this or that;" for the Queen, as a general rule, would not accept what
people chose to offer her, but only what she chose that they should
offer her.

"Give me a little oil in a bottle, Livette," said the young gipsy,
darting a dark, flashing glance at the pretty girl with the fair,
sun-flecked hair.

Livette, charitable as she was at every opportunity, at once felt that
she must be on her guard against this vagabond, who knew her name. Her
father and grandmother had gone to Arles, to see the notary, who would
soon have to be drawing up the papers for her marriage to Renaud, the
handsomest drover in all Camargue. She was alone in the house.
Distrust gave her strength to refuse.

"Our Camargue isn't an olive country," said she curtly, "oil is scarce
here. I haven't any."

"But I see some in the jar at the bottom of the cupboard, beside the
water-pitcher."

Livette turned hastily toward the cupboard. It was closed; but, in
truth, the stock of olive oil was there in a jar beside the one in
which they kept Rhône water for their daily needs.

"I don't know what you mean," said Livette.

"The lie came from your mouth like a vile black wasp from a
garden-flower, little one!" said the motionless figure, still leaning
heavily on the window-sill, evidently determined to remain. "The oil
is where I say it is, and more than twenty-five litres too; I can see
it from here. Come, come, take a clean bottle and the tin funnel and
give me quickly what I want. I'll tell you, in exchange, what I see in
your future."

"It's a deadly sin to seek to know what God doesn't wish us to know,"
said Livette, "and you can guess that oil is kept in cupboards and
still be no more of a sorceress than I am. Go about your business,
good-wife. I can give you some of this bread, fresh baked last night,
if you wish, but I tell you I haven't any oil."

"And why do they call you Livette," said the Queen calmly, "if it
isn't on account of the field of old olive-trees--the oldest and
finest in the country--owned by your father, near Avignon? There you
were born. There you remained until you were ten years old, and at
that age--seven years ago, a mystic number--you came here, where your
father was made farmer, overseer of drovers, manager of everything, by
the Avignonese master of this 'Château d'Avignon,' the finest in all
Camargue.--'Livettes! livettes!' that's the way you used to ask for
_olivettes_, olives, when you were a baby. You were very fond of them,
and the nickname clung to you. A pretty nickname, on my word, and one
that suits you well, for if you're not dark like the ripe olive,
you're fair as the virgin oil, a pearl of amber in the sunlight, and
then you are not yet ripe. Your face is oval, and not stupidly round
like a Norman apple. You have the pallor of the olive-leaves seen from
below.--And that you may soon see them so, little one, is the blessing
I ask for you, as the curés of your chapels say, where they take us in
for pity. Be compassionate as they are, in the name of your Lord Jesus
Christ, and give me some oil quickly, I say--in the name of extreme
unction and the garden of agony!"

The gipsy had said all this without stopping to breathe, in a dull,
monotonous, muffled voice, but she added abruptly in loud, piercing,
incisive tones: "Do you understand what I say?" imparting to those
simple words an extraordinarily imperious and violent expression.
Livette hastily crossed herself.

"Come, enough of this!" said she, "I have nothing here for you, and we
keep the oil of extreme unction for better Christians! Begone, pagan,
begone!" she added, trying to counterfeit courage.

"Of the three holy women," continued the gipsy, "who took ship, after
the death of Jesus Christ, to escape the crucifying Jews, one was
like myself, an Egyptian and a fortune-teller. She knew the science of
the Magi, of those with whom great Moses contended for mastery in
witchcraft. She could, at will, order the frogs to be more numerous
than the drops of water in the swamps, and she held in her hand a rod
which, at her word, would change to a viper. Before Jesus she bowed,
as did Magdalen, and Jesus loved her too. In the tempest, as they were
crossing the sea, her wand pointed out the course to follow, and, to
do that with safety, had no need to be very long. Must you have more
pledges of my power and my knowledge? What more must I tell you to
induce you to give me the oil I need so much? If you were a man, I
would say: 'Look! I am dark, but I am beautiful! I am a descendant of
that Sara the Egyptian who, when the boat of the three holy women drew
near the sands of Camargue, paid the boatman by showing him her
undefiled body, stripped naked, with no thought of evil and without
sin, but knowing well that true beauty is rare and that the mere sight
of it is better than all the treasures of Solomon. So be it!'"

Livette was thoroughly alarmed. The gipsy's assurance, her hollow,
penetrating voice, imperious by fits and starts, these strange tales
filled with evil words on sacred subjects, this devilish mixture of
things pagan and things mystic, the consciousness of her own
loneliness, all combined to terrify her. She lost her head.

"Away with you, away with you," she cried, "queen of robbers! queen
of brigands! away with you, or I will call for help!"

"Your drover won't hear you; he's tending his drove to-day beside the
Vaccarès. Come, give me the oil, I say, or I'll throw this black wand
on the ground, and you will see how snakes bite!"

But Livette, brave and determined, said: "No!" shuddering as she said
it, and, to glean a little comfort, cast a glance at the low beam
along which her father's gun was hanging. The gipsy saw the glance.

"Oh! I am not afraid of your gun," said she, "and to prove it--wait a
moment!"

She left the window. The light streamed into the room, bringing a
little courage to Livette's terrified heart, as she followed the gipsy
with her eyes. In the bright light of that beautiful May evening, the
gipsy woman stood out, a tall figure, against the distant, unbroken
horizon line of the Camargue desert, which could be seen through a
vista between the lofty trees of the park.

Livette felt a thrill of joy as she saw a troop of mares trotting
along the horizon, followed by their driver, spear in air--Jacques
Renaud, her fiancé, without doubt.--But how far away he was! the
horses, from where she stood, looked smaller than a flock of little
goats. And her eyes came back to the gipsy queen. A few steps from the
farm-house, in front of the seigniorial château, a huge square
structure, with numerous windows, long closed,--a structure of the
sort that arouses thoughts of neglect and death and the grave,--the
gipsy stood on tiptoe, drawing down the lowest branch of a thorn-tree.
The thorns were long, as long as one's finger. With a twig of a tree
of that species the crown of the Crucified One was made.

She broke off a twig thickset with thorns, bent it into a circle,
twisting the two ends together like serpents, and returned to the
window.

Livette noticed at that moment that the two watch-dogs were following
the gipsy, with their tails between their legs, their noses close to
her heels, with little affectionate whines. And she, the gipsy Queen,
as slender as haughty, erect upon her legs, in a ragged skirt with
ample folds through the holes in which could be seen a bright red
petticoat, her bust enveloped in orange-colored rags crossed below her
well-rounded breasts, her amulets tinkling at her ears, medallions
jangling on her forehead, which was encircled by a gaudy fillet of
copper,--she, the Queen, came forward, holding in her hand the crown
of long stiff thorns, to which a few tiny green leaves clung in
quivering festoons;--and in a low, very low tone, she murmured the
same caressing plaint that the two great cowed dogs were murmuring,
saying to them, in their own language, mysterious things they
understood.

"Take this," said the gipsy, "let your kind heart be rewarded as it
deserves! Misfortune, which is at work for you, will soon make itself
known to you. How, may God tell you! In love, the wind that blows for
you is poisoned by the swamps. The charity your God enjoins is, so
they say, another form of love that brings true love good fortune. And
here is my queenly gift!"

She threw the crown of thorns through the window at Livette's feet.

"Madame!" exclaimed Livette in dismay.

But the gipsy had disappeared.

Infinite distress filled the poor child's heart. With her eyes fixed
on the crown, Livette recalled the legends in which the good Lord
Jesus appears disguised as a beggar--and in which He rewards those who
have received Him with sweet compassion.

In one of those legends, the Poor Man, welcomed with harsh words,
subjected to mockery and cowardly insults, struck with staves and
goblets and bottles thrown by drunken revellers--at last, standing
against the wall, begins to be transformed into a Christ upon the
Cross, bleeding at the holes in his hands and feet!--And, sick with
terror, she asked herself if she had not received with unkindness one
of the three holy women who, after the death of Jesus, crossed the sea
in a boat to the shores of Camargue, using their skirts for sails, and
assisted by the oars of a boatman, whom one of their number, Sara the
Egyptian, paid in heathen coin, by allowing him to see, as the price
of a Christian action, her undefiled body, entirely naked, upon the
self-same spot on which the church stands to-day.

Slowly she picked up the crown and threw it into the fire over which
the soup was stewing. Before it melted into ashes, the crown of thorns
seemed for a moment to be pure gold.



II

IN CAMARGUE


Every year, at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the village that stands at
the southern end of Camargue, above the marshes, on a sand beach, the
line of which is constantly changed by the action of the waves and
high winds, every year, the feast of Saintes-Maries is celebrated on
May 24th; and at the time of that festival the gipsies flock to
Camargue in large numbers, impelled by a curious sort of piety,
mingled with a desire to pilfer the pilgrims.

Legends, like trees, spring from the soil,--are its expression, so to
speak. They are also its essence. At every step in Camargue, you find
the everlasting legend of the holy women, just as you everlastingly
see there the same tamarisk-trees, confused, against the horizon, with
the same mirages.

The two Marys, so runs the legend, Jacobé, Salomé, and--according to
some authorities--Magdalen, and with them their bondwomen, Marcella
and Sara, adrift on the sea in a boat without masts or sails, pursued
by the accursed Jews, after the Saviour's death, spread to the breeze
strips of their skirts and their long, thin veils, and the wind
carried them to this beach at Camargue.

There a church was built. The sacred bones, found by King René, were
enclosed in a reliquary, which has never ceased to perform miracles.
And every year, from every corner of Provence, from the Comtat and
from Languedoc, the last of the believers throng to the spot, bringing
their aspirations and their prayers, dragging with them their sick
friends and kindred, or their own wretchedness, their wounds and their
lamentations.

Nothing more strange can be imagined than this land of desolation,
traversed every year by a multitude of cripples on their way to hope!

From afar, at the end of the desert tract, can be seen the
battlemented church that tells of the wars of long ago, of Saracen
invasions, of the precarious life led by the poor in the Middle Ages.
It stands there with its turrets and its bell-tower, which, like the
stumps of gigantic masts, tower above the cluster of houses grouped
about it; and the village, cut at about mid-height of the lower houses
by the horizon line of the sea, seems drifting like a phantom ship
among the billows of sand, like the boat of the holy women of the
olden time, doomed to founder at last in the desolation of the desert.

In this Camargue everything is strange. There are ponds like the huge
central pond, the Vaccarès, in the centre of which one can wade with
ease; there are tracts of land where the pedestrian sinks out of sight
and is drowned. Here deception is easy. Yonder green slime that you
take for a level plain--beware!--men are drowned therein; those vast
stretches of water which seem to you small seas--return that way
to-morrow; they will have evaporated, leaving only a mirror of white
salt that crackles beneath your feet. Yonder, do you see the calm,
deep water? and trees on the shore? Ah! no, you can run along the
surface of that water; it is dry land; the mirage alone formed those
trees, just as it showed you the little child walking a league away,
apparently near at hand and very tall. A land of visions, dreams, and
hard work. A land of sedentary folk, who inhabit a vast space on the
shore of endless waters, with an infinity of variations of mirages,
sunbeams, reflections, and bright colors. A land of fever, where
strong men daily bring wild bulls to earth. A land of leave-takings,
for it is on the confines of an almost uninhabited land, on the shore
of that great blue and white thoroughfare, the sea; just at the point
where the Rhône, coming from the mountains, sets out upon its long
journey to the bottomless waters, where the sun will take it up again
to restore it to its source. An impressive land, which one feels to be
the end of so many things; of the great city-making river, of the
great expiring Faith, which flies to the sands to breathe its last,
with its dying waves beating at the foundations of a poor
battlemented church, amid the psalms, mingled with lamentations of a
dying race.

The ceremony of May 24th, at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, is
unquestionably one of the most barbarous spectacles which men of
modern times are permitted to witness.

Since science made the conquest of men's minds, the faith of the last
believers has changed. The most bigoted know, of course, that God can
manifest Himself when and how He pleases, but they also know that He
never pleases, in our positive days, to modify the movements of the
vast mechanism of His creation, not even for the lowly pleasure of
proving His existence to His creatures. The faith of civilized men no
longer expects anything from Heaven in this world.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, on the 24th of May, is the rendezvous of the
last savages of the Faith.

They who come to pray to the holy women for health of body and of
heart are unpolished creatures of a primitive belief. They believe,
and that is the whole of it. A cry, a prayer, and, in reply, the
saints can give them what they have not: eyes, legs, arms, life! And
they ask them to perform a miracle as artlessly as a condemned man
implores his pardon from the head of the State. That their prayers
should be granted is quite as possible, almost more probable, for the
saints have more pity. The few thousands of believers--it is long
since their numbers have been added to--who pay a visit to the saints
every year, see one or two miracles on each occasion. When the priest,
coming from the church, followed by a procession, stretches out toward
the sea the _Silver Arm_ which contains the relics, they see the sea
recede! That happens every year. Imagine, then, how strenuously they
importune the saints who can do so much with so little exertion! with
what energy they hurry to the spot! with what sighs they pour out
their hearts! with what a howling they utter their prayers! with what
fervor they raise their eyes, stretch out their necks and their arms!
All, all in vain. The last posturings of the great, fruitlessly
imploring sorrow are to be seen there, in that desert corner of
France, between the arms of that dying stream, on the shore of the sea
that is eating away the island; beneath the arches of yonder church,
so white without, so black within, wherein every hand holds a taper,
flickering like a star of human misery, which burns for God and
greases the fingers, and for which the beggar, whose heart would be
made glad by a single sou, must pay five sous.

The whole region seems to be at once the highway to exile, and a wild
place of refuge. Therefore, the gipsies love it. It is one of the main
cross-roads of their interlacing highways which envelop the whole
world; it is one of the favorite countries of the race that has no
country.

And every year, the gipsies come to Camargue to enjoy their very
ancient privilege of occupying a black crypt or underground chapel,
under the choir of the church, consecrated to Saint Sara the Egyptian.

In that cavern they can be seen crouching at the foot of an altar
whereon is a little shrine--Saint Sara's--all filthy from much
kissing, while above, in the church, the great shrines of the two
Marys are lowered from the vaulted roof amid vociferous prayers.

There, in the crypt, the gipsies sit upon their haunches,
curly-headed, hot-lipped, sweating profusely, amid hundreds of
candles, which exude tallow and overheat the stifling oven, telling
their greasy beads, exhaling an odor similar to that of wild beasts in
their den, emitting from time to time a hoarse appeal to Saint Sara,
wearing the smile of premeditated crime upon their faces mingled with
the grimace due to remorse that may be sincere; looking with envious
eye at every sou, pilfering handkerchiefs, scratching their wounds,
swarming in a mysterious dunghill, where one feels, in spite of
everything, that some mystic flower is springing into life, the
involuntary aspiration of depravity toward purity.

Early in May of this year, the band of gipsies had brought with them
to the saints a young woman whom they called their "Queen."

This "Queen," pending the arrival of the approaching fête-day, passed
part of her time seated on the wooden bench under the canopy of
thorn-broom erected by the customs' officers between two tamarisks, on
the sand-dune just in front of the village; and there she sat and
gazed at the sea.

Her name was Zinzara.

Her thick, black, wavy hair was twisted carelessly into a mass on top
of her head. Two locks came forward to her temples, which were sunken
and filled with shadows. Her piercing black eyes gleamed from beneath
her thick arching eyebrows. A copper circlet with sequins hanging from
it was placed upon her forehead, slightly at one side, after the
manner of a crown.

The glaringly bright materials in which she enveloped her figure
revealed the outline of her powerful chest, and her hips that swayed
at every step she took. And the fragment that formed her skirt fell in
graceful folds, beneath which her naked foot peeped out, glistening
with sand.

Evening surprised her upon her bench beneath the broom, looking out
upon the sea. The sun tinged the waves and the sand with golden
yellow, then with red. The night wind made the reeds and rushes
quiver. Slowly the gipsy drew a bright-colored handkerchief from her
girdle and arranged it on her head. She put it over her face to tie
the ends together behind the mass of hair, then raised it and threw it
over her head, so that it fell upon her back. Thus arranged as a
head-dress, it framed the face in stiff, broad folds, falling on both
sides,--and the Egyptian, her hands spread out upon her knees, her
eyes fixed on the horizon, resembled some figure of Isis, while about
her a flock of red flamingoes or a solitary ibis, in hieroglyphic
cries, told the sands of Camargue and the rushes of the Rhône tales of
the sands of Libya and the lotus-trees of the Nile.



III

THE DROVERS


Jacques Renaud, Livette's lover, was employed as drover of bulls and
horses in this strange Camargue country, on the estate of the Château
d'Avignon.

The _manades_, or droves, of Camargue bulls and mares live at liberty
in the vast moor, leaping the ditches, splashing through the swamps,
browsing on the bitter grass, drinking from the Rhône, running,
jumping, wallowing, neighing and lowing at the sun or the mirage,
lashing vigorously with their tails the swarms of gadflies clinging to
their sides, then lying down in groups on the edge of the swamp, knees
doubled under their bulky bodies, tired and sleepy, their dreamy eyes
fixed vaguely on the horizon.

The mounted drovers leave them at liberty, but keep a watchful eye on
their freedom; and according to the time of year and the condition of
the pasturage, "round up" their herds, keep them together, and direct
their movements.

In the distance, as they sit motionless, and straight as arrows, on
their saddles _à la gardiane_, astride their white horses, with the
spear-head resting on the closed stirrup, they resemble knights of the
Middle Ages, awaiting the flourish of the herald's trumpet to enter
the lists.

The Camargue horse, with his powerful hind-quarters, stout shoulders,
head a little heavy,--an excellent beast withal,--is descended from
Saracen mares and the palfrey of the Crusades. He still wears antique
trappings. Huge closed stirrups strike against his sides; the broad
strap of the martingale passes through a heart-shaped piece of leather
on his chest, and the saddle is an easy-chair, wherein the rider sits
between two solid walls, the one in front as high as that at his back.

At certain times, when the best pasturage is on the other bank of the
Rhône, the drovers drive their _manades_ toward the river. When they
reach the shore, they press close upon them to force them in. The
earth-colored water of the river flows bubbling by. The beasts
hesitate. Some slowly put their heads down to the stream and drink,
not knowing what is required of them. Others suddenly show signs of
life at the "singing" of the water, stretch their necks, breathe
noisily, and low and neigh. A horse, urged forward by a drover, rebels
and rushes back, then rears and falls backward into the water, which
splashes mightily under the weight of his great body; but he has made
a start; he swims, and all the others follow. Muzzles and nostrils,
manes and horns, wave wildly about above the river, which is now a
swarm of heads. They blow foam and air and water all around. More than
one, in jovial mood, bites at a neighboring rump. Feet rise upon
backs, to be shaken off again with a quick movement of the spinal
column, and thrown back into the waves. Sometimes a frightened beast,
confused by the plunging and kicking, tries to return to the bank,
and, being driven in once more by the drovers, loses his head, follows
the current, sails swiftly seaward, feels his strength failing,
drinks, struggles, turns over and over, plunges, drinks again,
founders at last like a vessel and disappears.

Finally the bulk of the drove has reached the opposite bank, and there
they shake themselves in the sunlight, snort with delight, and caper
over the fields. Tails lash sides and buttocks. Some young horses,
excited by their bath, scamper away, side by side, toward the horizon,
biting at the long hairs of each other's flying manes.

Then it is the turn of the drovers. Some ride their horses into the
river. Others, in the midst of the rearguard of the _manade_, guide,
with the paddle, a flat-bottomed boat that a blow of the foot would
shatter, and their horses, held by their bridles, swim behind.

At other times, the drovers are employed driving from the plains of
Meyran or Arles, Avignon, Nîmes, Aigues-Mortes to the branding-places
at Camargue the bulls that are to take part in the sports at the
latter place.

These bulls sometimes travel in captivity, in a sort of high
enclosure, without a floor, mounted on wheels and drawn by horses; the
bulls walk along the ground, beating their horns against the resonant
wooden walls.

Generally the bulls go to the games unconfined, but under the eye of
mounted drovers, spear in hand.

These journeys are made at night. As they pass through the villages,
the people rush to their windows. The young men are on the watch for
the "cattle" and try to drive them out of the circle of drovers, who
lose their temper, and swear and strike: that sport is called the
_abrivade_. In Arles, if the bulls happen to arrive by daylight, the
drovers have a hard task, for all the young men in the city do their
utmost to break the line of horsemen, in order to cut out one bull, or
several, if possible, and then drive them through the city. The city
assumes a posture of defence. Overturned carts barricade the ends of
the streets. Shops are closed. The bull, in a frenzy, rushes here and
there, stands musing for a moment at the corners, decides to take a
certain direction, rushes at a passer-by, knocks him down, and
generally selects the shop of a dealer in crockery and glassware in
which to make merry, amid the shouts of an excited populace.

The drovers are a free, fearless, savage race, a little contemptuous
of cities, devoted to their desert.

A drover is at home alike in sun and rain, in the wind from the land,
and the wind from the sea.

A drover knows how to deal blows and to receive them; he pursues a
bull at the gallop, and with a blow of the spear upon his flank,
judiciously selecting his time, "fells" him unerringly.

He knows the trick of pursuing a wild bull making for the open
country. His well-trained horse bites the furious beast on the
hind-quarters, and he turns. The drover, spear in rest, pricks the
bull in the nose as he rushes upon him, and checks him.

Sometimes a drover, on foot and alone, pursued by a cow with calf, and
apparently in imminent danger from the furious beast, will suddenly
turn about, and--with arm outstretched, as if he held his spear--point
his three fingers at the animal, separated so as to represent the
three points of the trident. In face of the motionless man, the cow,
seized with terror, recoils, pawing up the earth, with lowered head
and threatening horns; and, as soon as she thinks she is well out of
the man's reach, she turns and flies.

A common performance of the drover, when he is in good spirits, is
this: pursuing the bull, he passes beyond him some twenty or thirty
yards, then stops short and leaps down from his horse; the bull, taken
by surprise, rushes at the man, who has one knee on the ground. The
bull comes rushing on with lowered horns. Three sharp hand-claps: the
bull has stopped! His hot breath strikes the face of his subduer, who
has already seized him with both hands by the horns. The man,
springing instantly to his feet, struggles to throw the beast over to
the right. The bull, resisting, throws himself in the opposite
direction. The two forces neutralize each other for an instant, almost
equal, the result uncertain; then the man suddenly yields, and the
beast, unexpectedly impelled in the direction of his own efforts,
falls upon his side. Skill is seconded by the creature's whole
strength in its struggle for victory.

This is the method adopted at the _ferrades_, or brandings, where the
sport consists in branding the young animals with a red-hot iron.

For a drover, to seize a colt by the nose, and mount him bareback; to
roll with his steed at the bottom of a ditch and emerge firmly seated
in the saddle; to subdue stallions by fatigue, and, if dismounted and
wounded by a kick, to dress the wound as tranquilly as the cork-cutter
dresses the scratch made by his knife,--all this is mere child's-play.

A drover, caught between two horns--luckily well separated--and tossed
into the air, has but one thought when he picks himself up after
falling to the ground--a thought so surprising as not to be
ridiculous: to rearrange his breeches and readjust his belt.

A unique race it is, rough and brutal, which would be esteemed heroic,
like the Corsican race, if it had great affairs in which to display
its great qualities.



IV

THE SÉDEN


Jacques Renaud, Livette's betrothed, was, as we have said, one of the
most fearless drovers in Camargue.

He could pursue and catch and subdue a wild horse, attack a rebellious
bull and master it, as no other could; he was the king of the moor.

For occasions of public rejoicing, at Nîmes or Arles, he was always
sent for when they desired a really fine performance in the arena. And
he had so often called forth the exclamation, in all the arenas
throughout Provence: "Oh! that fellow is _the king_ of them all!" that
the name had clung to him. And he himself had given to his finest
stallion the name of "Prince."

Whatever feats of address and strength were performed by others, he
performed better than they.

And with it all he was a handsome fellow, not too tall or too short,
with a well-shaped head, clear, dark complexion, short, thick, matted
black hair, a well-defined moustache of the same devil's black as the
hair, and cheeks and chin always closely shaven, for this savage
always carried in the leather saddle-bags hanging at the bow of his
saddle a razor-edged knife, a stone to sharpen it upon, and a little
round mirror in a sheep-skin case.

And when, with his stout and shapely legs encased in heavy boots, his
feet in the closed stirrups, his long spear resting on his boot, he
sat erect and motionless in his high-backed saddle, his size
heightened by the refraction of the desert, amid his little tribe of
mares and wild bulls, wearing upon his head the round narrow-brimmed
hat that made for him a crown of gleaming golden straw, indeed the
drover did resemble the king of some outlandish race!

And yet it was not on the day of a _ferrade_, nor because of his great
deeds as tamer of wild beasts, that the gentle, fair-haired girl had
come to love him.

In the first place, she was accustomed to seeing many of these
drovers; and then, being the daughter of a rich intendant, she might
have been inclined rather to look down upon them a little, as mere
herdsmen. Indeed her father and grandmother did not readily agree to
give her hand to Renaud, who was poor and had no kindred; but Livette
was an only child, and had wept and prayed so hard, the darling, that
at last they had said _yes_.

And this is how it came to pass that the drover Renaud, who was used
to being run after by pretty girls, had taken Livette's trembling
little heart in his great hand.

It was one morning when he was making a new _séden_ for his horse,
who had lost his the night before, while bathing in the Rhône.

The _séden_, as it is called in Camargue, is a halter, but a halter
made of mares' hair braided, it being customary always to allow the
manes and tails of stallions to grow as long as they will, as a mark
of strength and pride. The _séden_ is generally black and white. It
is, in a word, a long rope, which hangs in a coil about the horse's
neck, and may serve, as occasion arises, many purposes, being
generally used as a halter, sometimes as a lasso.

But the _séden_, being a thing essentially Camarguese, should never go
from the province. Many a one does so, no doubt, but it is on account
of the contemptible greed of this or that drover, who snaps his
fingers at the old customs that were good enough for his ancestors.

Renaud, then, was making a _séden_. It was in front of one of the
farm-houses appertaining to the Château d'Avignon, a long, low
structure, rather a drover's cottage than a farm-house, lost in the
moor, and so squat that it had the appearance of not wanting to be
seen, like an animal burrowing in the ground.

It was October. The larks were singing merrily. Mounted upon Blanquet
(or Blanchet), her favorite horse, the little one, in obedience to her
father's orders, was out in search of Renaud, and she spied him at a
distance, walking backward, playing the rope-maker. From a piece of
canvas tied around his waist and swelling out in front of him, like an
apron turned up to make a great pocket, he was taking little bunches
of white and black hair alternately, braiding them together and
twisting them into a rope, which grew visibly longer. A child was
turning the thick wooden wheel upon which the _séden_, already of
considerable length, was wound; and Renaud--keeping time to the wheel,
which struck a dull blow against something or other at every
revolution--was singing a ballad which floated to Livette's ears on
the gentle breeze that was blowing, like a sweet, strong call from the
love of which she as yet knew nothing.

    "N'use pas sur les routes
      Tes souliers;
    Descends plutôt le Rhône
      En bateau.

    "Laisse Lyon, Valence,
      De côté;
    Salue-les de la tête
      Sous les ponts."

He had a fine voice, smooth and clear, powerful without effort, and of
wide range.

    "Avignon est la reine----
      Passe encor;
    Tu ne verras qu'en Arles
      Tes amours----

    "La plaine est belle et grande,
      Compagnon----
    Prends tes amours en croupe,
      En avant!"[1]

Livette had stopped her horse, to hear better. It was in the morning.
In the light there was the reflection that tells that the day is
young, that makes hope dance in hearts of sixteen, and sows hope anew
even in the hearts of the old.

A vague hope that is naught but the desire to love; but its loss,
bitterer than death, makes the thought of death a consolation!

    "Prends tes amours en croupe----
      En avant!"

the singer repeated, and the little one involuntarily urged her horse
toward the song that called to her to come.

"Aha!" said Renaud, pausing in his work, "aha! young lady! you are
astir early!--with a white horse that will soon be all red!"

"Yes," she said, laughing, "with gnats and gadflies; there are swarms
of them! too many, by my faith in God!"

"You are covered with them, young lady, as a bit of honey is covered
with bees, or a tuft of flowering genesta! But what brings you here?"

"I come from my father. You must come with me at once."

"But comrade Rampal borrowed my horse just now to go to Saintes. They
went off one upon the other."

"Take mine, then," said Livette.

"And what will you do, young lady?"

She was ashamed of her thoughtlessness, and blushed scarlet.

"I?" said she, and the words of the ballad rang in her heart:

    "Prends tes amours en croupe,
      En avant!"

"Unless," said he, laughing in his turn, "you care to take me _en
croupe_?"

"People would never stop talking about it all over our Camargue," said
she, with laughter in her voice. "A drover like you, the terror of
riders, _en croupe_ like a girl? No, no; no false shame, that is my
place. We will take off my saddle, and you can bring it to me
to-morrow."

"Very luckily," said Renaud, "Rampal didn't take mine, which I never
lend."

Livette jumped down from her horse; and at the breeze made by her
skirt a cloud of great flies and enormous mosquitoes rose and flew
buzzing about her. Blanchet's snow-white rump looked as if it were
covered with a net of purple silk, there was such a labyrinth of
little streams of blood crossing and recrossing one another. Another
instant, and gadflies and mosquitoes settled down again upon the
bleeding surface and dotted it with a myriad of black spots; but
Blanchet, albeit somewhat cross, was used to that annoyance.

Livette fastened him to one of the rings in the wall, and sat down
upon the stone bench, waiting until Renaud had finished his _séden_.

The wheel turned and turned, striking its dull blow with perfect
regularity at every turn.

"That was a pretty song, Renaud," said Livette suddenly, answering her
thoughts without intention; "that was a pretty song you were singing
just now."

"I learned it," said Renaud, "from a boatman, a friend of my father,
with whom I went up the Rhône as far as Lyon--and then came down
again----"

"And is all that country very beautiful up there?" said she.

"Yes," he answered, "it is beautiful."

And he said nothing more.

"You don't look as if you meant what you say, Renaud. Pray, didn't you
like the city of Lyon we hear so much about?"

There was a long silence, broken only by the monotonous rhythm of the
wheel.

"No sun!" said Renaud abruptly. "It's a city in a cold cloud!--The
Rhône isn't fine till you come down again," he added.

Livette looked at him, and her wide-open eyes seemed to say:

"Why is that?"

He answered her look.

"When one of us goes up yonder, young lady, you understand, he leaves
everything to go nowhere, and when he gets there, all he asks is to
start back again!--When he comes from there here, on the contrary, he
leaves nothing at all, and knows that, at the end of the journey, he
will have arrived somewhere! You see, young lady, the best horse must,
of necessity, stop at the sea--and that is the only place where I am
willing to consent to go no farther. Where the sea is not, you have
all the rest of the journey still to do.--Enough, my boy!" he added,
raising his voice.

The wheel stopped. He examined the _séden_. The rope, of black and
white strands in regular alternation, was finished.

"That's a good piece of work," said he; "look, young lady."

He leaned over, almost against her, to look at a point in the rope
which seemed to him defective; he leaned over, and a short black curl
touched lightly the disordered, almost invisible, locks that formed a
sort of fleecy golden cloud over Livette's forehead. And thereupon it
seemed to both of them--young as they were!--that their hair blazed up
and shrivelled softly, like the fine grass that takes fire in summer,
under the hot sun. Ah! holy youth!

Then, for the first time, Renaud thought of the girl. Hitherto he had
seen in Livette only the "young lady." They remained bending forward,
she over the rope which she seemed to be examining attentively, he
over Livette's hair. Livette wore her "morning head-dress," consisting
of a little white handkerchief which covered the _chignon_, and was
tied in such fashion that the two ends stood up like little hollow,
pointed ears on top of her head. When they are in full-dress, the
women of Camargue surround the high _chignon_, covered by a fine white
linen cap, with a broad velvet ribbon, almost always black, whose
long, unequal ends fall behind the head, a little at one side.

Renaud, then, was looking at Livette's clear flaxen hair,--in which
there was, here and there, a lock of a darker golden hue,--symmetrically
massed on top of her head, advancing in little waves toward her temples,
coquettishly arranged, but so short and fluffy that some few locks
escaped, here, there, and everywhere, enough to form the faint golden
mist above her head.

He looked at the pretty, round neck, whence the fair hair seemed to
spring, like a vigorous plant, so slender and so fine! so long, and
full of life! And the temptation to press his lips upon it drew him
on, as, after a long day's journey among dry, stony hills, the sight
of the water draws on the horses of Camargue, accustomed to moist
pasturage.

She felt that she was being stared at too long.

"Let us go!" she said, suddenly. "My father's orders were that you
should come as soon as possible."

Renaud felt as if he were waking from a long sleep and from a dream.
He jumped to his feet. Without a word, he went to Blanchet, took off
the woman's saddle and carried it into the house, placed his own upon
the beast, which the mosquitoes had at last made restive, and leaped
upon his back.

Livette, assisted by the drover's strong hand, leaped to the croup
behind him with one spring; highly amused she was as she threw one arm
around Renaud's waist. It is the fashion among the Camarguese young
women, all of whom, on fête-days, ride to the plains of Meyran, or to
Saintes-Maries, "fitted" to the horses of their promised husbands.

The drover started Blanchet off at a gallop, gave him his head, and
let him take his own course. Blanchet left the travelled road, headed
straight for the château across the moor, through the sand thickly
sown with stiff, rounded clumps of saltwort at irregular intervals.
The good horse flew over these clumps, scarcely touching the tops,
landing always between them in the damp sand, from which, however, by
force of long habit, he withdrew his feet without effort, calculating
in advance the distance between the obstacles, galloping freely and
evenly, changing feet as he chose, making sport of his heavy burden,
happy at being left to himself.

And Livette must needs hold tight to the drover's waist; he was a
lithe, supple fellow, and swayed with the horse. And the swift
motion, the free air, youth and love, all combined to intoxicate the
two young people; and without meaning it, without thinking of it, the
horseman repeated his song of a few moments before, between his teeth,
but loud enough to be overheard by the girl:

    "Prends tes amours en croupe!
      En avant!"

And it seemed to them as if the whole horizon were theirs.

When they dismounted, in front of the farm-house of the château, they
had not spoken a word, but they had exchanged in silence the subtlest
and strongest part of themselves.

From that day, Renaud, being sincerely in love, exerted himself to
please. He was careful about his dress, paid more attention to the
adjustment of his neckerchief, shaved more closely, and had not a
single glance to spare for the other girls, even the prettiest of
them.

At last, he said to Livette one day:

"Your father will never be willing!"

Those were his first words of love.

"If I am willing, my father will be. And when my father is willing,
grandmother always is!"

"The good God grant it!" replied Jacques.

And it had happened as she said. For almost five months now they had
been betrothed.

The fascinating thing about Livette was that she was just the
opposite of Renaud, so slender and delicate, so fair and such a
child,--and, furthermore, that she loved him with all her might, the
sweetheart,--there was no mistake about that.



V

THE LOVERS


Livette was so fresh and sweet that people often repeated, in speaking
of her, the Provençal expression: "You could drink her in a glass of
water!"

In loving Livette, Renaud experienced the pleasant feeling, so dear to
the heart of strong men, of having some one to protect, a little wife,
who was no more than a child. Because of Livette's fragility and
slender stature, the rough drover, made for violent passions, the
horseman of the Camargue desert, the hard-fisted herdsman, the subduer
of mares and bulls, felt the love that is based upon sweet compassion,
upon respect for charming weakness; in a word, he learned the secret
of true tenderness which he could not have felt, perhaps, for one of
his own class.

It would never have occurred to him to tell her any of the vulgar
jests with a double meaning, with which he regaled the more robust
fair ones of his acquaintance on branding-days or on race-days. To do
that would have seemed to him to be a villainous misuse of his power
and his experience as a man. Still less did Livette cause him to feel
the fierce desire, well known to him, which sometimes, with other
girls, went to his brain like a rush of blood,--the desire to touch
with his hands, to take in his arms, to throw down into the ditch,
laughing at the gentle resistance, at the consent which repels a
little, at the equal struggle between the youth and the maiden, who
have, in reality, a tacit understanding to be robber and robbed. No:
in Livette's presence, Renaud felt that he was a new man. There came
to him, in regard to the little damsel with the golden hair, a
tranquillity of heart that surprised him greatly. Love has a thousand
forms. That which Renaud felt for Livette was a soothing emotion. He
"wished her well." That was what he kept repeating to himself as he
thought of her. And, as he desired all the others something after the
fashion of the bulls of his _manade_, in the season when the germs are
at work, it so happened that he seemed not to desire the only woman he
really loved.

There was a sweet fascination in the thought, which he relished like a
draught of pure water after a long day's walk through the dust in the
hot sun. He rejoiced inwardly in his love as in a halt for rest in the
shade of a great tree, beside a clear, cool spring, while the birds
sang their greeting to the morning. Sometimes, in the blazing heat of
midday, when he was riding across the mirror-like waste of sand and
salt and water, his horse plodding wearily along with hanging head,
the thought of Livette would steal softly into his mind, and it would
seem as if a cool breeze were blowing on his forehead, washing away,
in a sense, the dust and fatigue, like a bath. He would feel
refreshed, and a smile would come unbidden to his lips. His whole
being would thrill with pleasure, and, with renewed life, he would
imperceptibly, with hand and knee alike, order his horse to raise his
head. And the lover's steed would raise his head without further
bidding, and snort and toss his mane, scatter, with a sudden lash of
his tail, the gadflies that were streaking his sides with blood, and,
with quickened step, reach the shelter of the hawthorns and the
poplars on the Rhône bank--whose leaves forever quiver and rustle like
the water, like the heart of man, like everything that lives and hopes
and suffers and then dies!

Not only by her grace and weakness did she win his heart, strong and
rough as he was; but also by the care expended on her dress, by the
splendor of her surroundings, she, the wealthy farmer's daughter,
enchanted him, the poor drover; and she seemed to him a strange,
unfamiliar creature from another world. And so she was in fact. Of a
different quality, he said to himself: a being outside his sphere,
far, far above it.

That he might one day unloose the latchets of her little shoes had not
occurred to him, and, lo! she was his! Livette, the daughter of the
intendant of the Château d'Avignon! she was his fiancée, his
betrothed, his future wife!

He seemed to himself the heir to a throne. In face of the mere thought
of his future, he felt something like the embarrassment a beggar feels
on the threshold of a palace, before the carpets over which he must
pass to enter, with shoes heavy with mud.

She had in his eyes something of the sanctity of the blessed Madonna,
carved from wood, painted blue and gold, and overladen with pearls and
flowers, that he used to see when a child in the church of
Saint-Trophime at Arles.

So it was that he felt a secret amazement at finding himself beloved.

It did not seem to him that it could really be true; and as he must
needs be convinced of the fact every time he spoke to her, his love
constantly appealed to him with all the force of novelty.

He was a little embarrassed, too, in her presence, could not find his
words, contented himself with smiling at her, with yielding submission
to her like a child, with running to fetch this or that for her,
divining her desires from her glance; mistaking now and then, but
rarely; feeling the same pleasure in being the maiden's footman that
is felt by the misshapen court dwarf in love with the king's fair
daughter.

His sobriquet of _The King_ seemed to him a mockery beside her. She
embarrassed him; in her presence he was meek and lowly.

He was surprised, indignant even, in his heart, at the familiar tone
assumed by others with Livette. It seemed strange to him that her
companions should treat her as an equal; that her father and her
grandmother should not have the same respect and consideration for his
fiancée that he himself had.

Frequently, when the grandmother cried to Livette: "Do this or that;
run! be quick!" he would be angry, and would long to say to her: "Why
do you order her about? She was not made to obey! You're a bad
grandmother! Don't you see that she is too delicate and pretty for
such tasks?"

But this was a feeling kept hidden in his heart; he would not have
dared to avow it, for women are made, according to our ancestors, to
be the slaves of man. So he said no word of what he felt. He even
deemed himself a little ridiculous to feel it. He contented himself by
doing in a twinkling, in Livette's stead, the thing she was bidden to
do, if it was something within his power.

Ah! but if any man had ventured to indulge in any ill-sounding
pleasantry with Livette, to take any liberty with her--oh! then, be
sure that he would without reflection have felled him on the spot with
his stout fist!

Why, if any one, man or woman, in the crowd on a fête-day, happened to
make a coarse remark in her hearing,--one of the sort that he himself
knew how to make with great effect upon occasion,--he would be
overcome with rage against that person; it seemed to him that every
one should take notice of Livette's presence, should feel that she was
near, and understand that, before her, they should show some
self-respect.

All this he would have been incapable of explaining, but he felt it
all, confusedly and vaguely, in his heart.

Livette, for her part, was keenly conscious of the drover's adoration.
She revelled in it, without unduly seeming to do so. She saw very
plainly that she had, without effort, tamed a wild beast. She laughed
sometimes, as she looked at him--a frank, ringing laugh, in which
there was, however, a touch of the triumph of the mysterious feminine
witchery, the marvellous invention of nature, which decrees that the
strong man shall be vanquished, rolled in the dust, at the pleasure of
fascinating weakness. This miracle, performed by life, by nature, by
love, she believed to be her own work,--hers, Livette's,--and the
little woman was a bit swollen with pride! More than frequently she
would say to herself: "What have I done? I don't deserve this good
fortune; no, indeed, I don't deserve it!" She saw very clearly that,
in his eyes, she was a being apart: that he did not treat her by any
means as everybody else did: and, greatly astonished as she was, she
was proud of it.

Thereupon, wondering in her sincere heart what she had "more" or
better than another, and finding no answer to the question, it came
about that she deemed her lover a little, just a very little, stupid
to be so dominated by her, and he so strong! And then she would
prettily make fun of him and laugh aloud at him, saying:

"Ah! great booby!"

So it was that the whole essence of Woman, profound, seductive,
existed in this simple, obscure peasant-girl, who could have told
nothing as to her own character.

In time, too, she came to look upon herself as pretty, beautiful, the
prettiest, the loveliest of all, and to admire her own charms. When
such thoughts came to her, and if the truth must be known, none were
more frequent,--ah! then she felt her pride! And she no longer deemed
her lover stupid in the least degree; on the contrary, he seemed to
her very fortunate, too fortunate! and then it was he who hardly
deserved her! At such times, she received his attentions, his
humility, with the air of a princess accustomed to homage.

Then, too, she would wonder why all the others did not do for her what
he did? And, thereupon, she would conceive a sort of gratitude for
him. Such a constant revolution in our hearts of impressions, often
irreconcilable and ever changing, around a fixed idea, is love.--Yes,
in very truth he deserved to be loved simply because he had known
enough to appreciate her! to choose her! The other young men were the
fools, one and all!

Warm was his welcome if he arrived at the farm when that thought was
in her mind. She would give the little cry of a happy bird, and run
to meet her lover.

"Good-morning, Monsieur Jacques!"

"Good-morning, Demoiselle Livette!"

They would shake hands.

"Will you come to the Rhône?"

"With all my heart!"

And often they would go and sit together beside the Rhône, beneath the
great hawthorn--a tree more than a hundred years old and known to
everybody. The hawthorn, like the aspen and the birch, is a familiar
Camarguese tree.

Sometimes, on the way, she would hold out to him a flexible green
twig, broken from a poplar by the roadside, and they would walk along,
united and kept apart at the same time by the short branch, followed
by a swarm of gnats with their tiny iris-hued wings.

She was very fond of this sport of making him walk thus, not too near,
not too far away, holding him without touching him, drawing him nearer
or keeping him at a distance, as her fancy dictated, making of the
leafy wand a whip if he showed signs of rebellion.

She had the feeling that thus she was indeed his mistress, remembering
how she used sometimes to make her horse Blanchet follow her docilely
in the same way by holding out to him a small wisp of flowering
oats;--how she had sometimes, by the same means, led back behind her,
quiet as an ox, a vicious bull that had escaped, wounded, from the
arena, and that she had encountered by the roadside, in a thicket of
thorn-broom, bathing his foaming tongue in the streams of blood that
were flowing from his nostrils.

Arrived at the bank of the Rhône, beneath the great hawthorn with the
gnarled black trunk and smooth white branches, that stretches its
abundant rustling foliage well out over the stream, the lovers would
sit down, side by side, upon the roots protruding from the ground or
upon a bundle of cut reeds.

And they would watch the water flow. The earthy, yellowish water, with
its whirling masses of foam, rushing toward the sea.

They would sit and gaze.

They would not speak. They would live on in silence, listening to the
plashing of the Rhône, the tiny wavelets that came rippling in
obliquely to the bank, to loiter there among the feet of countless
reeds and poplars, while the main current in the centre of the stream
flowed swiftly, hurriedly along, as if in haste to reach the sea, and
there be swallowed up.--There they would sit and dream, not speaking.

They felt that they were living the same life as everything about
them. From time to time, a kingfisher, sky-blue and reddish-brown,
would pass before them, light on a low branch, gazing sidewise at the
water with his beak ready to strike, then, suddenly, fly off across
the Rhône. And, with the sky-blue bird, their thoughts would cross
the river, there to light again upon a branch, bent like a bow, whose
slender point trailed in the water, vibrating in the current, and
surrounded with a mass of foam, dead leaves, and twigs. And suddenly
the bird, like a sorcerer, had disappeared.

"How pretty!" Livette would sometimes say.

And that was all.

He would make no reply. He knew not what to say to her. He was too
happy. He would not call the king his cousin!

In the evening twilight, many little rabbits, young in that month of
May, would run out from the park, through the wild hedges, almost
invisible in their gray coats, and play in the shadow at the foot of
the bushes, their presence betrayed by the rustling of a tuft of grass
or a low-hanging, horizontal branch that barred their path.

To heighten the enjoyment of the lovers, there was the nightingale's
song, at the rising of the moon. Listen to it: 'tis always lovely in
the darkness, is the nightingale's song. It begins with three
distinct, long-drawn-out cries; you would say it was a signal, a
preconcerted call; it enjoins attention. Then the modulations
hesitatingly arise. You would say that it is timid, that it fears its
prayer will not be granted. But soon it takes courage, self-assurance
comes, and the song bursts forth and soars and fills the air with its
melodious uproar. 'Tis love, 'tis youth and love that can no longer
be restrained, that nothing stays, that claim their rights in
life.--His song is done.

His song is done, but still the lovers listen on and on to the bird's
song, echoed in the dark recesses of their own hearts.

At last, it would be time to return. They would rise and walk back
toward the farm, not far away.

The grandmother would be calling from the doorway:

"Livette! Livette!"

Her voice would reach their ears, with a plaintive, caressing accent,
tinged with sadness, from the edge of the vast expanse that rose in
the darkness toward the stars, toward life and love,--a long,
melancholy call. The voice at night upon the moor fills the air and
rises tranquilly, disturbed by no echo, sad to be alone in a too great
solitude.

Around the lovers as they returned to the farm, in the orchards, in
the park, as the darkness increased, the deafening clamor of the frogs
would soon be heard, a mighty noise, the sum total of a multitude of
feeble sounds, a frightful din, composed of many minor croakings of
unequal strength, which, massed together, drowning one another, mount
at last into a rhythmic tumult like the ceaseless roaring of a
cataract.

And amid this formidable everlasting clamor, made by the voices of
myriads of amorous little frogs, accentuated by the cry of a curlew,
or a heron on the watch, and accompanied by the humming of the two
Rhônes and the plashing of the sea--the lovers, both deeply moved,
heard nothing save the calm beating of their hearts.

As time went on, their love waxed greater, increased by the memory of
all these hours lived together.

Renaud was no longer simple Renaud in Livette's eyes, but the being by
whom she knew what life was, through whom came to her that
overwhelming consciousness of everything, of the horizons of land and
sea, that sentiment of _being_, that longing for the future, for
growth, that inflow of vague hopes that comes of love and gives a zest
to life.

And now, if any one had sought to wrest Jacques from Livette, she
would have died of it, and he who should try to wrest Livette from
Jacques would have died of it--he would, my friends, even more
certainly.

It is a good and excellent thing that love should be always busied in
making the world younger--and the nightingale, like the frogs, is
never weary of repeating it.



VI

RAMPAL


Rampal, who had borrowed Jacques Renaud's horse, had not returned.

Renaud now rode no other horse than Blanchet.

Rampal was a low rascal, gambler, hanger-on of wine-shops, well-known
at Arles in all the vile haunts scattered along the Rhône.

Dismissed by several masters, a drover without a drove, he passed his
life in these days, riding from town to town, from Aigues-Mortes to
Nîmes, from Nîmes to Arles, from Arles to Martigues, and in each of
these towns plied some doubtful trade, cheated a little at cards,
winning the means of living a week without doing anything, and
returning, for that week, to the Camargue he loved, where there were,
in two or three farm-houses, women who smiled upon his mysterious,
piratical existence.

For that existence, a horse was essential. Rampal, serving as a drover
on foot, had, in the first place, stolen a horse from a _manade_, but
he broke his tether the second night, left his master, swam the
Rhône, and rejoined his fellows. Then it was that the rascal, having,
in truth, important business on hand, had said to Renaud:

"I have to go to Saintes, I'll take your horse, Cabri."

"Take my horse," Renaud replied.

It did not occur to him that Rampal would not return. Jacques relied
so surely upon his own reputation for strength and courage that he did
not think that any one would venture to arouse his wrath.

And then he had a sort of pity for Rampal, mingled with a little
admiration. He was a bold horseman, was Rampal, and, except for women
and cards, he would have been, with Renaud, or just after him, a king
of the drovers! So that, if Rampal aroused Renaud's compassion, Renaud
aroused Rampal's envy.

However, the vagaries of this _marrias_, this good-for-nothing knave,
were the pranks of a free man. Neither married nor betrothed,
fatherless and motherless, with no one to support or assist, no one
whom he must please, he had a perfect right to live as he pleased! At
least, that is what most people thought.

Moreover, Renaud, although an honest man, had the tastes of a
vagabond. Before his heart was filled with his strange affection for
Livette, by which he felt as if he were bound hand and foot, he had,
in truth, borne a part with Rampal in many curious adventures.

More than once they had galloped along side by side toward the open
moor, each having _en croupe_ a laughing damsel, who, after the close
of a bull-fight at Aigues-Mortes or Arles, had consented to accompany
them for a night.

But on such occasions Renaud had always dealt frankly, never promising
marriage nor any other thing, but simply giving the fair one a
present, a souvenir, a brass ring, or a silk handkerchief--a _fichu_
to pleat after the Arlesian fashion, or a broad velvet ribbon for a
head-dress; while Rampal was treacherous, promised much and did
nothing,--in short, was nothing but _féna_, a good-for-nothing.

So Rampal had borrowed Renaud's horse with the intention of bringing
him back the same evening; but that evening he had heard of a fête at
Martigues and had ridden away thither without worrying about Renaud.

"He'll take a horse out of his _manade_," he said to himself.

Now, Audiffret, Livette's father, had insisted that Renaud should take
Blanchet.

"Take Blanchet," he said. "I don't like to have our girl ride him.
He's a fine horse, but bad-tempered at times. Finish breaking him for
us. I want him to run in the races at Béziers this year. Take him."

Happy to have Blanchet in the hands of "her dear," for so she already
called Renaud in her heart, Livette, who was fond of Blanchet, simply
said:

"Take good care of him."

That was more than six months before.

Rampal, who had caused considerable gossip meanwhile, and of whom
Renaud had heard more than once, had not brought back the horse.

Renaud did not lose his patience. Several times, being informed that
Rampal was in this or that place, he had tried to find him, but had
not succeeded.

"I shall catch him some day!" said Renaud. "He loses nothing by
waiting."

He hoped that the fête at Saintes-Maries would bring the rascal back.

"He will come back with the thieving gipsies!" he said; and he was not
mistaken.

Not for an empire would Rampal have missed making the pilgrimage to
Saintes-Maries. The rascal would have thought himself everlastingly
damned. It had been his habit from childhood to come and ask
forgiveness of his sins from the two Marys and Sara the bondwoman, at
whom he did nothing but laugh in a boastful way, unable to satisfy
himself whether he believed in them or not.

This year, being affiliated with the gipsies in matters of
horse-trading (every one knows that the gipsies, men and
women,--_roms_ and _juwas_, as they say,--have a profound acquaintance
with everything connected with the horse), Rampal had been a fruitful
source of information to them.

By divers methods they had led him to talk about this and that, about
every one and everything. He had no idea himself that he had told so
many things. They had questioned him, sometimes directly, taking him
unawares; sometimes in a slow, roundabout way; when he was drunk, and
when he was asleep. And his replies had been pitilessly registered in
the gipsies' unfailing memory--the wherewithal to astonish all
Camargue.

Rampal had not even been questioned by the gipsy queen, who did not
trust his discretion; she learned the secrets of the province at
second-hand.

Once only had he spoken to her. It was one evening when the beggar
queen began to dance for her own amusement on the high-road, to the
music of her tambourine, which she hardly ever laid aside.

"You are beautiful!" he said to her.

"You are ugly!" she replied, quickly, in a contemptuous tone.

"Give me the ring on your finger," said Rampal, "and I'll give you
another."

She glanced with a gleaming eye at her fantastic ring of hammered
silver, then at the insolent Christian, and said:

"A sound cudgelling about your loins is what I will give you, dog, if
you don't leave me!"

And she spat fiercely at him as if in disgust.

Rampal, somewhat abashed, abandoned the game.

This woman had a way of looking at people that disconcerted them. You
would say that a sharp, threatening flame shot from her eyes. It
penetrated your being, searched your heart, and you were powerless
against it. She fathomed your glance, but you could not fathom
hers--which, on the contrary, repelled you, turned you back like a
solid wall. And, at such moments, she would stand proudly erect, her
head thrown slightly back, her whole body poised, at once so sinuous
and so rigid, that she might have been compared to a horned viper
standing on his tail, fascinating his prey and preparing to spring.

"I can't explain, Jacques, how that woman frightened me," said Livette
to Renaud. "My blood is still running cold!--She threatened me! And
when that crown of thorns fell at my feet--Holy Mother!--I thought I
was going to faint!"

"If I meet her," Renaud replied, "she'll find she has some one to
settle with!"

"Let the heathen alone, Jacques! It isn't well to have aught to do
with the devil."

But the drover loved a fight, and he longed for nothing so much as to
fall in with Rampal and Zinzara, the gambler and the queen of the
cards; "a pair of gipsies, a pair of thieves," thought Renaud.



VII

THE MEETING


The gipsy queen was the first of the two he met.

Renaud, mounted on Blanchet, was riding along the beach toward
Saintes-Maries.

The sea was at his right; at his left, the desert. He was riding
through the sand, and from time to time the waves rolled up under his
horse's feet, surrounding with sportive foam the rosy hoofs rapidly
rising and falling.

Renaud was thinking of Livette.

He looked ahead and saw the tall, straight, battlemented walls of
Saintes-Maries, and wondered whether he would lead his little queen,
dressed in white, and crowned with flowers, to the altar there, or at
Saint-Trophime in Arles.

He looked at the sea and wondered if nothing would come to him from
that source; if his uncle, captain of a merchantman, who sailed on his
last voyage so many years ago, would not come into port some day with
a cargo of vague, marvellous things, a million in priceless stuffs and
precious stones? In the poor, ignorant fellow's imagination, the
thought of a fortune was a vision of legendary treasures, like those
discovered in caverns in the Arabian tales.

For an instant, he seemed to see it with his eyes, to see his vision
realized in the dazzling splendor of the boundless sea, that lay
glistening in the sunlight, with sharp, fitful flashes, like a mirror
broken into narrow, moving fragments of irregular shape. It was an
undulating sheet of diamonds and sapphires. The sun's rays, as he sank
lower and lower toward the horizon, assumed a ruddier hue as they fell
obliquely upon the fast-subsiding waves, and soon the water was like a
sheet of old burnished gold, moving slowly up and down; one would have
said it was a vast melted treasure beneath a polished vitreous
surface! At long intervals, a solitary wave greater than its fellows
fell with a dull roar upon the beach, and ever and anon a cloud passed
overhead; and in the mist flying from the gold-tipped wave, in the
slow-moving shadow of the cloud, the water seemed a deep, dark blue.
The sun sank lower, and broad bright red bands began to overshadow the
bands of ochre, amethyst, light green, pale blue, that rose one above
another on the horizon line. The changing sea was now like a cloak of
royal purple, with fringe of azure, gold, and silver.

On the desert side, the marshes likewise were changed to vast floors
carpeted with gorgeous drapery and rich embroidery. Everything was
ablaze with sparkles--sea, sand, and salt. At intervals, a red
flamingo rose from among the reeds, flew heavily along, seeming to
carry on his side a little of the ruddy hue of sky and sea,--then
lighted on the brink of the gleaming water.

The gulls were like white dream-birds in this enchanted country. They
sat in lines, like brooding doves, on the crests of the waves in the
offing, or on the hot sands, or on the surface of the ponds.

And, down in the northwest, Renaud was looking for the high, square
terrace of the Château d'Avignon, for Livette sometimes went up there
to see if she could not spy Blanchet and her dear Renaud's straight
spear somewhere in the plain.

Suddenly Renaud checked his horse and gazed fixedly at a black object
moving on the surface of the water, rising and falling with the motion
of the waves, some two hundred feet from shore.

He thought he could descry a woman's head; a head covered with
dripping black hair and surrounded by a copper circlet, from which
depended glistening Oriental medallions.

The gipsy was swimming, disporting herself in the waves, which, coming
from the deep sea, rose and fell slowly and at long intervals. She
glided through them like a conger-eel, happy in the sensation caused
by the gentle lapping of the salt water caressing her flesh. Her
movements were undulating, like those of the waves themselves; she
writhed and twisted like seaweed tossed about by the surf. Now and
then a heavier, higher wave would come upon her. She would turn and
face it, put her hands together in a point above her lowered head, as
divers do, plunge into the broad wave horizontally, and cleave it
through from front to rear.

From his horse, Renaud watched the dark head emerge on the other side
of the swelling wave, which, as it approached the shore, curled over
with whitening crest, broke upon the beach in snowy foam and spread
out over the sand, beneath and all about him, in shallow, transparent,
overlapping streams, all studded with sparks. He could not see the
swimmer's body distinctly. Its fleeting outlines could scarcely be
made out beneath the clear, transparent water, ere they were blotted
out again by the undulations and reflections.

Suddenly the swimmer turned toward the shore, apparently gained a
footing, and, raising one arm out of the water, motioned to Renaud to
be gone, shouting:

"Go your way!"

But he, who had thus far watched her with curiosity and with no
feeling of anger, was irritated by those words. Certainly he had
forgotten none of Livette's grievances against the gipsy. Not a week
had passed since her threatening visit to the Château d'Avignon. But,
in that beautiful evening light, Renaud's heart felt at peace, and he
had recognized the gipsy queen without emotion. It may be that
curiosity was dominant in his heart, and urged him toward this
mysterious being, surprised in her bath, in the utter solitude of the
desert at evening; the curiosity of a traveller to examine a strange
animal, of a Christian to investigate a heathen woman. "Go your way!"
This command, hurled at him from afar by a woman's voice, wounded him
in that part of his heart where the memory of the gipsy's threat
against Livette was stored away.

"Ah! it's you," he cried, "you, who go about and stand in doorways to
frighten young girls when they happen to be left alone! who tell lies
and play monkey-tricks to make them give you what they refuse to give!
Don't let it happen again, thief! or you'll find out how the pitchfork
and the goad feel!"

The insulted queen was absolutely convulsed with furious rage. If she
had been near the drover, she would have jumped straight at his
throat, as the serpent straightens itself out like an arrow and darts
at its prey. She felt that she grew pale, a shiver ran through her
whole body, and swaying a little, like the adder about to spring, with
her head thrown slightly back, she walked toward the horseman--but how
far away he was!

"Aha!" he cried, "you are coming near to hear better! Come on, you
heathen, come! I will explain it all to you!"

As he remembered how the woman had threatened Livette, his wrath rose
within him. They were not Christians, these Bohemian creatures, but
thieves, bandits, one and all. Why, it was said that they ate human
flesh, child's flesh, when they could find nothing better. If that
were not true, how would they have whole quarters of bleeding flesh in
their kettles so often? Ah! a race of wolves, of accursed foxes!

"Come on!" he cried again.

She came on, but not without difficulty, having to force her way step
by step through the resisting waves. Her shoulders were not yet
visible, and she was accelerating her speed by using her arms under
the water. She could have made the same distance more quickly by
swimming, but she did not even think of that. She was thinking of
something very different!

Renaud mechanically cast his eye along the shore, behind him, and saw,
a few steps away, the gipsy's clothes lying in a heap out of reach of
the waves,--and her tambourine on top of them; then he looked around
once more at the woman coming toward him. The water was now up to her
armpits, and not until then did he see that she was entirely naked.

Her bust slowly emerged from the water. At a hundred paces from the
shore, the water reached only to her knees. She was beautiful. Her
slender, well-knit body was very youthful. She stood very erect, and
seemed as if she were going into battle without any thought of shame.
She had been assailed: she was rushing at her assailant, that was the
whole of it. Her fists were clenched, her arms slightly bent, her head
still thrown back a little. Her whole attitude was threatening. The
water was rolling down in glistening pearls from her neck to her feet,
over every part of her swarthy, bronzed body. Her swelling chest
seemed to be put forward, as if it were ready, like a magic buckler,
to receive the blows that would be powerless to injure it.

The drover sat still in speechless amazement. He gazed at the
approaching woman, who, as he saw her, springing from the water,
surrounded by white foam, with her unusual coloring, appeared to him
like a supernatural being.

What was she there for? She came forward, boldly aggressive; and her
witch's mind was revolving many evil schemes, no doubt.

Did she not bend over a moment, as if to pick up pebbles from beneath
the water, with which to stone her enemy? Was she not holding them now
in her clenched fists. No: the sands of Camargue stretch very far
beneath the water, sloping very gradually, and not the tiniest pebble
meets the swimmer's bare foot.

What was she doing then?

And now she was close beside the horseman, whose curiosity constantly
increased. But he had ceased questioning himself. He simply stared at
her, stupefied and enchanted.

He followed her with his eyes, fascinated, forgetting his spear
resting upon his stirrup, forgetting his horse, forgetting everything.

And now she was within three paces of him, standing perfectly
straight, insolent in her whole bearing, in every undulation of her
figure, looking him in the face, with eyes from which a steely flame
shot forth, and which no other eye could penetrate. And as she
presented her profile to him for a second, he had a swift, hardly
conscious thought that the lower part of the face--from below the
nostrils to the base of the chin--resembled the head of the lizard of
the sand, and the turtles and snakes of the swamp. There was the same
vertical line, broken by thin, slightly-receding lips, whence he
expected to see a forked, vibrating tongue come forth, as in a dream
of the devil.

But this impression was but momentary, and he saw naught but the
woman, young, fair, unclothed, seemingly offering herself voluntarily
to his savage lust, in the security of that deserted shore, amid the
plashing of the waves, in the fresh breeze blowing from the sea, and
the evening sunlight, which, with the salt water, coursed in streams
over the whole lovely body.

Dazzled, blinded, drunken with the waves of blood, which from his
heart, whither it had rushed at first, suffocating him and making him
waver in his saddle,--now poured back to his brain, suffusing his face
and bull-like neck with red,--he was about to leap down from his
horse, or perhaps to stoop over only, snatch up the creature--a mere
feather in his hands--by strength of wrist, and centaur-like carry her
away _en croupe_,--when she, more prompt to act, darted forward,
stretching out her arms, and with her left hand seized and pulled
back with all her strength the double rein of Renaud's horse, making
him rear and fall back. And with her right hand she struck the
creature's face!

  [Illustration: Chapter VII

    _He saw naught but the woman, young, fair, unclothed,
    seemingly offering herself voluntarily to his savage lust,
    *** when she, more prompt to act, darted forward, stretching
    out her arms, and with her left hand seized and pulled back
    with all her strength the double rein of Renaud's horse,
    making him rear and fall back._]

"Go, dog! go and tell your people that a woman has revenged herself
upon you and has struck the horseman on his horse's face! Coward! Vile
neat-herd! Go and tell it to your sweetheart! Go, tell her that when I
struck you, you knew not what to do or say!"

There was no wrath left in Renaud; he had no feeling but fear mingled
with amazement. The woman's performance seemed to him in very truth
surprising, diabolical. In coloring, bearing, expression, and
audacity, she was the sorceress to the life. A strange terror took
possession of him. Perhaps he would have gone astray gaily, without
remorse, with any other than this ill-omened gipsy, who terrified him.
He was especially alarmed for Livette. He felt that she, and he
himself with her, were threatened by some mysterious, obscure
disaster; and the thought of being unfaithful to her filled him with
dismay, as the beginning of the end. He was afraid of himself; afraid,
for Livette, of this unforeseen, inexplicable creature, who rose up
before him, challenging him to contend with her, for what?--Thus,
malignity and hatred brought the woman to him as love would not have
done!--He was bewildered. He simply waited till his rein should be let
go, ready to start off at a gallop, feeling no longer in his heart the
wrath a man must feel in order to ride down any woman, though she
were a witch, and trample her beneath his horse's feet, at the risk of
killing her.

But why was he no longer angry? Because his eyes, against his will,
followed every movement of that body with its weird beauty,--the body
of an enemy.

"You would like to fly like a coward, would you?" she suddenly cried.
"You shall not go until I choose!"

Profiting by the horseman's open-mouthed stupor, she had seized with
her teeth a hanging end of the lasso that was coiled about the horse's
neck, and with the assistance of one hand--the other still holding the
rein--had swiftly passed it about the nostrils and tied it in a cruel
knot. With a fierce pull upon this instrument of torture, she held the
beast fast just where she wished him to be.

"You must wait until your comrades pass!" she said. "They must see a
bull-tamer tamed by a woman!"

"Upon my word," thought Renaud, "that would be, as she says, a very
absurd thing!" And he drew his horse back a little, thinking he might
release him, but the horse stretched out his head and neck, balked,
dropped his tail, and stiffened his four legs, as if he were tied to a
wall. The gipsy did not stir. She laughed, showing an unbroken set of
small, white, pretty, formidable teeth.

"Take care!" said Renaud at last, "I am going to ride my horse upon
you!"

"I defy you to do it!" she replied tranquilly.

She saw with her unerring glance signs of confusion in the drover's
eyes: the charm was working! Through a mist he now gazed upon this
woman, whose captive he was, by virtue of a burning curiosity already
closely akin to love. She smiled.

This lasted some time. At last, Renaud felt that his wits were leaving
him. To remain faithful to Livette, whom he could not betray with the
very woman upon whom he had promised to avenge her, he must not
dismount from his horse, for as soon as he put his foot to the ground
he would have become the stronger of the two! To remain faithful he
must have courage to remain vanquished in this struggle of beauty
against strength. And he waited.

She surprised the drover glancing for an instant toward the moor.

"Aha! you are afraid some one will see you, coward! but never fear!
Every one shall know what has happened to you, all the same. I will
take care of that! Some day you shall come and tell me what your
pale-faced, white-blooded blonde had to say to it!"

Humiliated at being forced thus to obey a woman, but rendered wavering
and weak by the physical delight she caused him to feel, he remained
where he was! His horse, as he irritated without maddening him, tried
several times to free himself, but without success. Renaud looked on.
Slight, supple as a tiger's whelp, active and strong, and accustomed
to contend with horses, the gipsy, still holding the cruel cord in
her left hand, had seized the long mane and wound it about her right
hand, and when the horse reared, she being thus made fast to him,
allowed herself to be raised from the ground, standing erect upon the
tips of her rigid toes--or else she would twine her feet about the
rider's leg, clinging to him as the polypus clings, with its tendons
to the rock, and laughing always, with a wicked, obstinate, triumphant
air.

"You shall never be rid of me again!"

At last, becoming more and more alarmed, he came to have a horror of
her, as of a poisonous insect, seen in a dream, a spider or a
dragon-fly, that follows you obstinately, or of an adder that
conceives a strange, almost human hatred for you, persists in
following your footsteps, with unwearying patience, and becomes an
object of terror, despite his puny size, because of his supernatural
tenacity.

And in very truth the fierce resolution, the malevolent perseverance,
the demoniacal obstinacy of the woman, protected as she was by her
beauty and her weakness, were terrifying.

But the play of the muscles, causing that gleaming flesh, now moist
with perspiration, to throb and undulate, aroused the man's interest,
in spite of everything, and pleased him more and more. Desire awoke in
him. And instantly he refused to accept his defeat, and rebelled.

"Look out!" he cried, and he urged his horse forward, driving his
spurs into his sides; but the beast, held fast by the nostrils, gave
but three leaps and then stopped short, breathing fire. Poor Blanchet,
who was used to his young mistress's caresses and sweetmeats! he was
learning now to know woman's true nature.

At last, the gipsy released her double prey.

"Go! you have looked at me enough!" she suddenly exclaimed.

Renaud gazed at her an instant longer, without speaking or moving. The
strength and chaotic character of his temptations held him fast there
for another moment. So this extraordinary experience (which would
never be repeated!) was ended at last!--Mad thoughts, each clear
enough in itself, but confused by their great number, jostled one
another in his brain. Why had he not sooner put an end to this
conflict? What would people say of him when it was known? How could it
be that he, the king of the moor, had not stooped to pick up this
joy?--But Livette?--ah, yes! Livette!

He buried his spurs in Blanchet's flanks, and the beast flew away
toward Saintes-Maries.

The gipsy stood on the shore a long while, looking after the fugitive.
She smiled. She reviewed in her mind the varying fortunes of the
battle, and gauged the extent of her victory. She recalled, one by
one, to enjoy them to the full, the thoughts that had passed through
her mind when she was wading toward the shore.

She had not premeditated her assault, as she made it--her first idea
had been to pick up some stones and throw them at Renaud's head, being
an adept in the art. But she could find none. So she had continued her
forward movement, not knowing what she would do, but certain that she
must do something to punish the insolent Christian.

But when she felt the cool air blowing upon her bare breast, she had
said to herself in her mysterious language, full of cabalistic words
and images, that if a saint had been able to recompense a boatman--her
good friend--simply by revealing to him her beauty all unclothed, a
heathen might, by similar means, chastise a brutal drover; for love is
the magician's herb, the bitter-sweet, the plant with two savors, balm
and poison at once; and woman is bitter as the salt sea water,
frightful as death,--her hands are chains stronger than iron, and her
whole being is as much to be dreaded as an army!

Could not she, brown as she was, almost black beside the white-skinned
blondes, domineer over the pale-faced Livette's lover, if she chose?
Indeed, what more need she do, to make him unfaithful to his fair
fiancée, than show herself to him, and could she not do it without
seeming to intend it? As she had, beyond question, been insulted by
this Christian, she could pretend to forget her nudity in her wrath,
and thus attack him with that same nudity!--No, no, there was no need
of philters, magic incantations, or fires lighted at night when the
moon is young, under tripods on which marsh-water, filled with snakes,
is boiling--no need of such things to bewitch this fellow! She would
come forth from the water, naked and lovely as she was, and the devil,
at her command, would do the rest! What were the stones she might
throw at a young man, compared with the power that exhaled from
herself? Yes, therein lay the charm of charms. She knew it,--being a
witch like every other woman! Lust for her body was what she would
throw at him like an evil destiny; with that she would poison his
life--and then, she would calmly watch the ravages of the poison.

And so she had come forward, small but formidable--the queen! She knew
also that in former times, in the days of pagan Europe, an immortal
goddess had issued from the sea, had sprung forth, fair and naked,
like a marvellous flower, and, standing on the blue waves, her feet
resting in a shell of mother-of-pearl, had long held sway over
men--before the reign of Jesus Christ.

Renaud, turning in his saddle, saw the gipsy standing there, still
naked, waving her arms in the sunlight, as if she wished still, from
afar, to hold Livette's betrothed spellbound and fascinated by her
beauty.

The sun disappeared below the horizon, and the naked woman's figure,
even more mysterious in the gathering twilight, was outlined in black
against a coppery red sky.



VIII

ON THE BENCH


From Saintes-Maries, whither he went to ask how many bulls he was
expected to bring on the day of the fête, Renaud rode away at once to
the Château d'Avignon.

He was in haste to see Livette once more, and sitting by her side to
forget the scene of the afternoon, to which, despite his efforts, his
mind constantly reverted.

A ride of four or five leagues and he reached his destination.

Livette and her father and grandmother were sitting just outside the
farm-house, enjoying the fresh air on the stone bench against the
façade of the château, among the old climbing rose-bushes which frame
the windows above with their bunches of green leaves interspersed with
flowers.

This was also one of the favorite resorts of our lovers, who liked to
have above their heads the perfumed foliage, to which one of the
nightingales from the park often came to sing.

"Ah! good-evening, Jacques."

"Good-evening, all."

"What brings you so late? You have dined, of course?"

"I ate some anchovies at the Saintes----"

"They're good for nothing but to give you an appetite. Would you like
something else? you have only to speak."

"Thanks, Master Audiffret. I'll just go and look after Blanchet in the
stable and then come back. I won't go to the _jass_ to-night. I'll
sleep in the hay-loft with the horses."

Master Audiffret, with his pipe between his lips, rose and followed
Renaud as far as the door of the stable, and from there watched him
rub down his horse.

"Whenever you please, Master Audiffret, you can take him back for
Livette. I don't find any faults in him; far from it. He is a good
horse, and very gentle."

"He is quiet with you because you tire him out, you see; but she
didn't use him every day, not by any means; I am always afraid for
her. If she takes a fancy to ride him sometimes, you can lend him to
her, and take the first horse that comes along for yourself. By the
way, I hope you will soon have your Cabri again. Somebody saw Rampal
yesterday in Crau. He was riding your horse, so he hasn't sold him, at
all events. It's fair to suppose he means to bring him back to you."

"Oh! I will go to meet him," said Jacques, "for as to thinking he
will bring him back to me--oh! no; he would have done that before
now!--Can you tell me, Audiffret, where Rampal was seen yesterday?"

"Between Tibert's farm and Icard's in Crau. Right there, as you know,
in the middle of a bog, is a hut you can only get to by a plank walk
built on piles and covered by the water--you can only tell where it
is, when you know the place, by stakes sticking up at intervals the
whole length of the walk. I have an idea he means to go in hiding
there, the beggar, like the deserter who went there to pass his time
of service----"

"Aha! he has gone to the Conscript's Hut, has he? Very good; I will go
to see him there, never fear!" said Renaud.

Blanchet, having been well rubbed down, was grinding the good lucern
between his teeth. Renaud went out of the stable, and with Audiffret
sat down beside Livette and the grandmother.

All four kept silence for a long moment. Nothing could be heard but
the unceasing, melancholy croaking of the frogs, and beneath it, but
indistinguishable, the dull murmuring of the two Rhônes and the sea.

The sky was swarming with innumerable tiny stars, which seemed to
answer the various noises of the palpitating moor; and, just as the
waters of the Rhône, after it rushes into the blue ocean, pursue their
own course for a long while therein, unmingled, without losing their
earthy color; so the Milky-Way, made of a dust of stars, pursued its
course, easily distinguishable, through the ocean of starry worlds.

Renaud had a feeling of constraint.

When he joined his fiancée, he did not feel all that he ordinarily
felt--a joyful impulse to run to meet her, a sort of oppression at the
pit of the stomach, a sudden delicious rush of the blood to the
throbbing heart!--And Livette, too, so soon, was conscious of a vague
inexplicable feeling at the bottom of her heart that something was
wrong. There was something between them! Indeed, he had, for the first
time, something to conceal from her; and, thinking that it might, that
it must be apparent, he suddenly said:

"I am not well to-night."

"Look out for the fever!" said Audiffret. "I know it is not as
frequent or as dangerous as it used to be, but you must be on your
guard, all the same! Be on your guard, and take the remedy. Up in the
pharmacy of the château are the registers of the time the land was
first exploited--the time when the Château d'Avignon people were
gaining a little arable land from the swamps every day. Why, men went
to the hospital, fifteen, twenty a day. And such doses of quinine, my
children! It is all written down in the _Livre de Raison_ up there. In
those days, all the farms hereabout had the same kind of a book,
called by the same name, just as sailors have a log-book. Those were
the days of good order and gallantry. The peasant-women in those days
didn't try to copy Parisian bourgeoises,--eh, grandmamma?--by wearing
dresses that didn't suit them, instead of the old-fashioned gowns that
made them attractive because they were so becoming."

"Yes," sighed the grandmother, "this is the age of pride, and my time
has gone by."

That is the common remark of all our old peasants.

"People didn't read so many newspapers in those days," continued
Audiffret, "they didn't worry so much about the affairs of the whole
world, and every man paid much more attention to his own affairs.
Things went better for it. Landowners lived on their estates and
raised families, instead of going to Paris and dying there, of pride
or debt or something else. The _Livre de Raison_ up yonder describes
our ancestors' battles with the swamps and the fever. The pharmacy is
still in good order, with the scales and the jars in the pigeon-holes,
under the dust. And the book tells everything, diseases and deaths.
To-day, hardly any one dies of the fever in our neighborhood. It is
dying out. The dikes and canals have done good service, and this
Cochin China of France, as that sailor called it that I took to see
the Giraud rice-fields, this Camargue of ours is as healthy to-day as
Crau!--However, be on your guard, I tell you, and take the remedy!
don't wait till to-morrow; Livette will give you what you need. Now, I
am going to bed. Stay up a little longer, young people, if you
choose. Are you coming, grandma?"

"No, I'll stay out a moment longer with the young folks," said the old
woman.

Audiffret knocked the ashes out of his pipe against the corner of the
bench, and having put it in his pocket, went up to bed.

Silence reigned upon the bench.

The grandmother was tired and sleepy: every little while she would
raise her head as if suddenly awakened,--then it would begin to fall
forward again, slowly, slowly----

"A heavy dew is falling," observed Livette, suddenly.

"Yes, demoiselle."

"See!" said she ingenuously, holding out her arm so that he could feel
the dampness on the sleeve of her dress. But he did not put out his
hand. He was not all Livette's that evening, as usual. Strangely
enough, she did not frighten him that evening. He was not, as usual,
overcome with diffidence in her presence. She no longer dominated him.
And he was angry with himself. He suffered. He realized that his
thoughts were more frequently busied with the memory of the day than
with his sweetheart, who was sitting so near him.

"What are you thinking about?" said Livette, who had had her eyes upon
him for a moment past, as if she could see his face distinctly,
although they were sitting in the shadow. Beyond question, she felt
that his thoughts were elsewhere. There is nothing more subtle than a
lover's divination.

"I am thinking," said Renaud, a long minute after the question, "about
my horse, which I propose to take back from Rampal to-morrow if he can
be found in Camargue or Crau."

"And then?"

"And then?" he repeated--"I was thinking of the Conscript's Hut, where
he is at this moment, perhaps,--in hiding."

"And of what else?" Livette insisted.

"Oh! how do I know! of the fever--of all we have just been saying----"

"Alas!" said the maiden, "and not at all of me, Renaud? do you not
think of me any more?"

Her voice was sad.

He shuddered, and the movement did not escape the little one's notice.
It seemed to him, as Livette uttered that reproach, that he saw the
gipsy again as he had seen her in the afternoon, standing before him,
near at hand, all naked and so brown! as if she were accustomed to
pass her days naked in the sun, and were tanned from head to foot by
his rays. And how lithe and sinewy the wild creature was! A genuine
animal, a little Arabian mare, of much finer breed than the Camargue
stock. Alas! for too long a time, through fidelity to his fiancée, he
had been as virtuous as a girl, and now the hot-blooded fellow's
continence was taking its revenge upon him, a cruel revenge, arousing
mad, amorous longings that were not for Livette. And so his very
respect for her--poor child!--turned against her!

"Jacques?" said Livette, in the hardly audible tone the sentiment of
love imparts to the lover's voice, a soft, veiled tone, heard by the
heart rather than by the ear.

Renaud did not hear her. He _saw_.--He saw the gipsy as plainly as if
she were there before him, even more plainly. In the darkness of the
night, her body, brown as before, seemed luminous, like an opaque
substance giving forth a pale light. Her naked figure, obscure and
bright at the same time, was standing motionless before his eyes--then
it moved--and he fancied that he saw the gipsy bathing in the
phosphorescent water peculiar to the summer months,--when swimmers
cause a cold, liquid light to dart hither and thither through the dark
water, following and marking the outlines of their forms, from which
it seems to radiate.

"Have I the fever?" he said to himself.

As if in answer to the unspoken question, Livette took his hand. She
felt it from wrist to finger-ends, to see if it were dry and hot.

"Yes," said she, "you must look out; father was right, you have a
touch of fever. Come up and find the medicine."

"Come on," said he, glad of the diversion.

"Come," she repeated, "but move softly: grandma has fallen asleep!"

The old lady was asleep, as she said. She was leaning against the
wall, perfectly motionless. The white handkerchief, tied in the
Arlesian fashion, instead of covering her _chignon_ only, enveloped
almost her whole head, allowing two tufts of coarse, white hair, all
in disorder, to protrude, like mist, on each side of her face.

She was asleep, her mouth partly open, a ray of light shining through
upon her teeth, which were still beautiful.

They left her there.



IX

THE PRAYER


Livette opened the farm-house door, which creaked loudly in the
resonant emptiness of the spacious stone staircase.

She lighted the lamp, which was hanging on a nail, and they went
up-stairs together, she absorbed by thoughts of him, and he of her,
but no longer in their accustomed condition of affectionate
embarrassment.

He held the iron lamp, hanging at the end of its hooked stick; and to
relieve his conscience, to do his duty as a lover, and perhaps in that
way to change the current of his thoughts, perhaps to set at rest the
amorous anxiety with which he was assailed,--to force himself to
return, heart and soul, to Livette, and, who knows?--so hard to fathom
is man with his background of devil!--perhaps, with her and unknown to
her, to satisfy to some extent the passion kindled by the other--for
all these reasons together, more inextricably mingled than the twigs
of the climbing rose-bushes, he said to himself: "I will kiss her!" He
had never done that thing,--except in the presence of the old
people,--but the Renaud of that evening was not the Renaud of other
days, in his feeling for Livette. The powerful leaven of his wild
nature was swelling his veins to bursting. In very truth, he had the
fever,--at all events, a species of fever. All his nerves were
overstrained; in his eyes, even the most indifferent objects wore an
unusual look. And in Livette he saw, in spite of himself, reproaching
himself bitterly therefor, things which ordinarily he refused to see.
And as, being always dressed in the Arlesian fashion, she wore the
_fichu_ of white muslin crossed upon her breast so low as to afford a
glimpse, beneath the gold chain and cross, of the white throat, above
the meeting of the stiff folds, laid neatly one upon another, his
passionate gaze fell upon that spot, amid the modest arrangement of
muslin, prettily called "the chapel."

In his left hand was the lamp, which he held shoulder-high, and as far
away as possible, to avoid the drops of oil,--and he wound his right
arm about Livette's waist as she placed her hand upon the iron rail.

At every step they climbed, he felt the play of the muscles of his
fiancée's youthful frame, imparting to the arm about her waist a
soothing languor that ran through his whole being,--and yet his heart
did not rejoice thereat; and he realized that, ordinarily, if the end
of the velvet ribbon in Livette's head-dress touched his face, it
caused a sweeter thrill of pleasure in his blood, and more than all
else, a pleasure which there was no mistaking. And, thereupon, he
grew vexed with himself as for a failure of duty, he was oppressed by
a presentiment of disaster, vague but inevitable. And she felt more
and more keenly the rebound of his emotions. She was conscious that
her peace of mind was endangered. Something certainly was against her.
The arm, which had sometimes been about her waist as now, no longer
seemed to be her lover's arm, but a mere ordinary man's. She suffered,
and did not understand. The look she saw in his eyes was a strange
look from him, without affection, without pity even. She knew him
well, honest Renaud, her promised husband, and yet she was afraid of
him as of a stranger!

All these thoughts passed very quickly through their minds, the more
quickly because they were simply conscious of them, and did not stop
to try to analyze them. The all-powerful human electricity, less known
than the other variety, was playing its game, impossible to follow, in
their hearts, with its vast net-work of currents and connections. In
these two creatures of instinct, the ever-recurring prodigy of love,
of natural affinity--of the sympathies and their opposite--was seen
once more, as mysterious, as marvellous, as profound as ever. So far
as nature is concerned, there are two beings: man and woman; there are
no subdivisions. At the basis of humanity, all life is the same, all
passion is the same. The student of the higher races labors
incessantly to perfect his reasoning and his powers of expression,
but there is more overflowing, complicated life in the heart of his
ignorant brother than in the heads of the philosophers, who, by dint
of self-analysis, have lost the faculty of emotion. They who deem
themselves most skilful in discovering the real man in themselves, do
not perceive that they pervert the secret impulses of their hearts by
keeping too close a watch upon them. The light of their miner's lamp
changes the psychological conditions, just as constant light would
modify the physiological condition of human beings and plants. And,
meanwhile, love and death repeat, in the eternal darkness of their
simple hearts, their unwitnessed miracles.

They had reached the landing on the first floor--as large as an
ordinary room. At the last step, Renaud, almost lifting Livette to the
landing, tried to draw her to him, but she was seized with an impulse
to resist, and he with a sudden impulse to resist himself; separately,
the two impulses would have had no effect; but combined, they exerted
sufficient force to place an obstacle between them, as if by mutual
consent. That force was the witchery at work.

As they did not exchange a word, their embarrassment increased.

Hastily, to escape the constraint each imposed upon the other, she ran
to the door at the right and entered. And he, well pleased to be able
to do or say something to bring them nearer together, called out:

"Wait for the light, Livette! I am coming."

But Livette had suddenly remembered the gipsy's threat. "It is fate,"
she said to herself, "I see it now!" And she felt herself grow pale.

Then she had an inspiration.

"Follow me, Renaud."

They passed through rooms where furniture of the time of the Empire
was sleeping beneath its covers, and the long hangings falling from
the ceiling in broad, stiff folds, and withered, as it were, by time;
rooms seldom visited by the master, but kept in order by Livette and
her grandmother.

At last, Renaud and Livette reached an apartment with bare,
whitewashed walls, once used as a chapel.

A wooden altar, entirely devoid of fittings and ornament, stood at one
end of the room. Before the white and gold door of the tabernacle the
sacred stone was missing, leaving a square hole in the wood-work of
the altar.

But Livette opened a broad door flush with the wall. It opened into a
closet in the wall. When the door was thrown wide open, they could
see, below a shelf about level with their heads, chasubles and stoles
hanging straight and stiff--with great crosses in heavy gold
embroidery--suns from which the dove came forth; and mystic triangles,
and _Agnus Deis_. Among all the others were vestments for use in
mourning ceremonies,--black, with bones and executioners' ladders,
hammers and nails, in heavy white embroidery; and--to Livette's
amazement--there, in the centre of a stole, on silk as black as night,
was worked a crown of thorns in silver, which, in the lamplight,
seemed to emit bright rays.

On the shelf, above all these priestly vestments--which were arranged
with the backs outward, hung in such fashion that you seemed to be
looking at the priests standing at the altar--on the shelf, between
the goblet and the pyx, shone the consecrated host, a radiant sun,
mounted upon a pedestal like a candelabrum; and in the centre of its
rays was a gleaming circle of plain glass, which also reflected, in
fantastic guise, the flame of the lamp.

"Kneel, Renaud!" said Livette. "Prayer is the cure for what is
happening to us. Kneel and let us pray!"

The drover obeyed. He understood that Livette's purpose was to
exorcise fate.

She prayed in silence fervently. He, marvelling, unwonted to the
attitude of prayer, and striving to keep himself in countenance,
looked from time to time at the lamp he held in his hand, raised it to
get a better view of the ecclesiastical treasures, and, diverted for
the moment, by constant effort, from the perplexity that weighed upon
his heart, he was the more wretched when his mind suddenly reverted to
Livette.

Thereupon he said to himself that she certainly had guessed the truth;
that there was, in fact, a spell upon him, and, in his heart, he
implored the merciful God of the Cross, the mystic triangle, the
symbolical bird and lamb, to come to his aid.

  [Illustration: Chapter IX

    _In his left hand was the lamp, which he held shoulder-high,
    and as far away as possible, to avoid the drops of oil,--and
    he wound his right arm about Livette's waist as she placed
    her hand upon the iron rail._]

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against
us!" Livette suddenly exclaimed, aloud, thinking of the gipsy.--"O
God," she added, "we promise Thee that on Saintes-Maries Day, which is
near at hand, we will each carry three tapers to their church, and
wait, until they are so far consumed, one after the other, in their
honor, that our finger-tips are burned!"

Then she rose--but before they left the room, they closed the
unpretentious double door upon the objects of a dead cult, left in the
darkness of abandonment--the goblet without wine, the pyx without
bread, and the consecrated host, whose polished metal case held naught
within.



X

THE TERRACE


He was well aware that he needed no fever medicine, and that his fever
did not come from the swamps.

She said no more about the drug, but as they stood on the landing and
he was preparing to descend, she said:

"Suppose we go out on the terrace?"

Livette wished to prolong the tête-à-tête, to ascertain if, after her
prayer, she would find _her_ Renaud in him once more.

He placed his lamp on the floor at the top of the staircase, and,
pushing open the door just above the last step, they both stood on the
terrace that overlooks the whole château.

A square terrace, and in the centre the great bell lay upon its side
in its iron cage--the great bell, three feet in diameter, that in the
old days called to work as well as to prayer, and when it rang the
Angelus caused the fever-haunted farm-laborers to fall upon their
knees on the brink of the miasmatic bogs.

Both of them, one after the other, mechanically struck the bell with
their foot, as it lay there on its side. It gave forth a short,
plaintive note, quickly stifled by contact with the flag-stones. It
was like the sigh of a mystery-haunted soul.

With hearts as sad as the bell, they leaned on the stone parapet in
presence of the night.

Livette and Renaud loved each other, but affection was no longer
enough for him. The sap of the spring-time, boiling in his veins in
lustful desire, gave birth, in Livette's heart, to sweet flowers of
reverie.

The swarming of the stars above their heads was beyond comprehension.
They were as many as the gadflies and frogs in the desert, or the
waves of the sea. They seemed to open and half close, like flowers in
a meadow, waved to and fro by a light, quickly-passing breath, like
eyelids making signs.

They seemed to have something to say, to move like lips speaking a
living language, telling of something of great moment that must be
known at once--but no sound coming from them reaches the ears of men,
for human hearing is not keen enough. Nor is the human sight keen
enough to see that the dust of the Milky-Way (pale as the pollen of
flowers) is also made of stars. Though men have seen it with a
different sight, afforded by man's inventive genius, that sight is
powerless to pierce farther and deeper--to learn all there is to know.

Moreover,--and Renaud himself had heard the story from the shepherds
who pass the winter in Camargue and Crau, and spend their nights in
summer counting the stars upon the summits of the Alps,--there are, in
space, beyond the skies visible to our eyes, fires alight so far away
from us, so far away that their light, now on its way toward our
earth, will not reach us for centuries to come. The men who follow us
centuries hence will see twinkling stars that even in our day were
lighted and making signs we could not see. And in those days ideas,
which are already kindled in men's minds, and are seen to-day by none
save those in whom their light is shed, will shine for all, and one of
them will be, for every mortal, the love and pity of the world.

Certain it is, that neither Renaud nor Livette could fathom those
infinite depths; but from the vast expanse of heaven, swarming with
tiny lights, a nameless emotion stole into their hearts, made up of
all their hopes to come.

Future worlds, lovelier than this of ours, were dreaming in them, with
them.

In them, too, because they were young and human, there was a share in
the future. In them, too, was the responsibility for future lives. In
them, too, lurked the mystery of generations to be born, for whom a
single couple, surviving the wreck of the demolished world, would be
enough to bestow upon them the desire to live and the power.

A spark is the basis of all fire. A man and a woman are the basis of
all love. Infinity is no greater than the number two. And that is why
the great scholars, who figure like Barrême, know no more of life and
the heart than Livette and Renaud--who knew nothing at all.

They knew naught save that they were alive and that they wished to
love each other and that they sought and shunned each other at the
same moment--but they did not ask each other why. They said nothing.
They felt. They could not say to each other that rivalry and jealousy,
that is to say grief, serve the designs of nature, whose purpose
doubtless is, by arousing those emotions, to quicken desire, so that
creation may be assured by outbursts of passion, and the future of
mankind by the imperious need of pleasure.

What does the law care for the weak and the vanquished? the strong
alone, they say, it wishes to perpetuate.

Pity and justice are human inventions, and will never triumph until
they have been slowly assimilated by the human mind to the matter of
which it is made.

They suffered, they longed for happiness--beneath that mystery-laden
spring sky. They awaited the coming of their joy, they summoned their
every hope, and they gazed at the dark horizon, at the desert, where
the tracts of sand shone like mirrors among the dark reeds, and the
ponds glistening with salt between the black lines of tamarisks. They
gazed upon the boundless expanse in which they seemed lost, and where,
nevertheless, they felt that they alone were an epitome of everything;
they listened, without hearing them, to the unending noises of the
island,--the murmuring of the water, the rustling of the reeds, the
waving foliage, the growling of wandering beasts, the distant roaring
of two rolling rivers and a restless sea;--and this combined voice of
the whole island formed a fitting accompaniment, by reason of the
extent and number of the sounds that composed it, to the silent
twinkling of the stars, that no one hears.

There was in the park, invisible to them at that hour, a foreign tree,
on which the flowers could be seen, by daylight, opening with a slight
noise. They sometimes amused themselves by watching that tree, said to
have come from Syria. A slight report, as if muffled, and a tiny
cloud, of very powerful odor, would issue from the bursting cell. The
tree continued, during the night, to send out its dust of passions in
quest of prey, and its strange perfume was wafted upward to the
lovers.

They trembled with joy at the slightest contact with each other. Ah!
if she could but have given him, on that beautiful May evening, all
the love his lusty youth demanded; if he could but have felt her
clinging lips melt beneath his burning ones, upon that lofty terrace
overlooking the rounded tops of the huge trees in the park, beneath
that dark star-spangled sky, doubtless his little betrothed would
have remained sole mistress of his heart!

But there were too many obstacles between Livette and Renaud; and as
he struggled virtuously to keep away from her, his thoughts flew off
to the other.

And Livette was already conscious of the heartache of the deserted
lover. All the broad expanse of level country that her eyes knew so
well, and that she felt about her in the darkness, suddenly seemed
empty to her, a desert in very truth, and thereby to resemble her own
heart. And softly, silently, she began to weep,--whereupon one of the
great farm dogs, her favorite, who had been seeking her in every
direction, came up to her and licked her hand as it hung at her side.

And down yonder, far down above the dark line of the sea, Renaud,
meanwhile, fancied that he saw a naked woman's form emerge from the
water, and await his coming, suspended in mid-air, or standing on the
surface of the waves.

"Livette! Livette!"

It was the grandmother's voice calling.

They went down without exchanging a word.

"Good-night, Monsieur Jacques," said the maiden.

"Good-night, mademoiselle," Renaud replied.

So they called each other monsieur and mademoiselle that night, and, a
moment after they had parted, Renaud took his horse from the stable in
perfect silence, and rode away.

His heart did not tell him that Livette, at her window, watched him
depart, her eyes filled with tears.

"Where is he going?"

She followed for a moment with her glance the luminous point (the
reflection of a star upon the head of the drover's spear) dancing
about in the darkness among the trees like a will-o'-the-wisp,--and
when that spark went out, she no longer saw the stars.



XI

THE HIDING-PLACE


Whither he was going he had no idea. He rode at random under the spur
of the energy that was rampant within him, demanding to be expended.

Love guided him as he himself guided his horse. He was the rider of
his own steed, and at the same time the accursed steed of the passion
that impelled him, spurred him on, shouted to him: "Forward!" guided
this way and that, without purpose, his mad race across the moor. He,
too, was mounted, harassed, bridled, whipped, bit in mouth, raging and
powerless. And the horse shared the mad humor of his master, who was
under the spell of love, so that Blanchet, wearied though he was by
his day's labor, having had but a very brief rest, was wild with
excitement none the less. Fortunately, he knew all the ditches and
canals and bogs, and, in his rapid flight with the reins lying on his
neck, he chose his own road. Sometimes he would slacken his pace on
approaching a ditch, in order to walk down into it, head first,
compelling his rider to stand in his great stirrups, with his back
touching the croup: sometimes he leaped them at full speed.

Drunken, bareheaded,--his hat having blown away somewhere in the
darkness,--the wind whistling through his hair, Renaud rode, for the
sake of riding, because the violence of his pace corresponded to the
violence of the passions that were raging within him. He tore along as
a beast does in the rutting season, from its mad desire to be alone.

And he said to himself that it was abominable to think of the other,
when he had for his own that flower of beauty, chastity and sweetness;
but he was thirsting for something very different; and he was
conscious of an intensely bitter taste in his mouth, a clinging, dry
saliva, a moisture that made his thirst the more unbearable.

Powerless to devise a means of escape from all the evil impulses in
his heart, he rode on confessing to two longings: either to meet
Rampal and take vengeance upon him for everything, or else to fall
over backward into a ditch and rise no more, thus giving a different
turn to his evil destiny;--and a third longing which he did not admit
even to himself: to meet the gipsy at daybreak, begging at the door of
some farm.--And then?--He did not know!

Suddenly he thought that he heard a beating of hoofs behind him, the
echo of his own gallop; he turned and saw--he saw in very
truth!--pursuing him at full speed, the naked gipsy, sitting firmly
astride her saddle, man-fashion, upon a shadowy horse whose feet did
not touch the ground.

She flew through the air, laughing in mockery as she cried to him:

"Stop, coward!"

He said to himself that it was not real, but he did not say to himself
that it was a vision; he thought: "It is witchcraft!" and fear seized
upon him, fear as powerful as his desire, and he fled from the image
of her he sought.

He turned to look no more; he fled. He heard the double gallop still:
his own and the other's. He rode through the transparent mist that
hovered over the damp, salt sand; and as he cut through those crawling
clouds it seemed to him as if he were riding through the sky, above
the higher clouds. In very truth, his brain was wandering, for love
will be obeyed, and his youthful passion was like insanity.

Suddenly Blanchet's four legs, as he flew over the ground, became
motionless and rigid as stakes, and his shoeless feet began to slide
over an absolutely smooth surface of clay, hard as iron and as
slippery as if it had been soaped. Swiftly the horse slid along,
digging furrows with his hoofs upon the polished surface, and when he
lost his acquired momentum, he stopped, tried to resume his former
pace, raised one foot and fell heavily to the ground, exhausted, his
mouth and nostrils breathing despair.

In an instant, Renaud, leaning on his spear, which he had not let go,
stood at his horse's head, struggling to lift him up, and encouraging
him with his voice. Blanchet, supported by the rein in his master's
hand, regained his feet after two fruitless slides.

Renaud looked about: there was nothing to be seen save darkness, the
desert, the stars,--tatters of pallid mist that strayed hither and
thither, as if clinging to a bush, a tamarisk, a clump of rushes,--and
assumed, from time to time, the shape of fantastic animals.

Renaud mounted Blanchet once more, but he was moved to pity for him.
And the horse, sometimes letting himself slide upon his shoeless feet,
his four legs perfectly stiff, sometimes putting one foot before the
other, testing the ground, which was firm and hard beneath his weight,
but soft beneath his sharp, scaly hoof, carried him at last away from
the clayey tract.

Pity and remorse at once were awakened in Renaud's heart by Livette's
horse.

What right had he, the drover, to ruin the favorite steed of his
darling fiancée in the service of his passion for a witch?

So Renaud dismounted, removed Blanchet's saddle and bridle, and said
to him: "Go! do what you will." Then he cut a bundle of reeds with
which he made himself a bed, and lay upon his back, with his saddle
under his head and a handkerchief over his face, waiting for dawn.

He fell into a heavy sleep, during which his trouble swelled and
burst within him, forced its way out, and took on form and
feature.--The same vision constantly returned.

When he awoke, two hours later, he found his cheeks wet with tears and
his hands over his face. Then he took pity upon himself, and, having
begun to weep in his dream, he let the tears flow freely that he would
have forced back had they sought an outlet on the previous day.

He deemed himself a miserable wretch, and wept over his fate, at first
madly, convulsively, and then with joy, as if, in weeping, he had
poured out all his sorrow forever. He wept to think that he was
caught, powerless, between two contrary, irreconcilable things: that
he wished for the one, and thirsted, against his will, for the other.
He beat his hands upon the ground; he tore his cravat, which strangled
him; he ground the reeds with his teeth, and cried aloud like a
child,--he, an orphan:

"O God! my mother!"

And he would have wept on for a long while, perhaps, and emptied the
springs of bitterness in his heart, had he not suddenly felt a warm
caress--two soft, warm, moist caresses upon his cheek, his forehead,
his closed eyes.

He half opened his eyelids and saw Blanchet standing beside him,
touching his face with his pendant lip as he used to touch Livette's
hand when in search of a bit of sugar.

Another animal had imitated Blanchet; it was the _dondaïre_, Le Doux,
the drover's favorite, the leader of his drove of wild bulls and cows,
whose bell he had not heard, but who had recognized his master.

The compassion of these two dumb animals aggravated Renaud's bitter
grief at first. Like children, who begin to howl as soon as you
sympathize with them, he, when he found he was so wretched as to
arouse the pity of beasts, cried aloud in his heart, but stifled the
cry at his throat; then, touched at the sight of their kindly faces,
and distracted thereby from his own thoughts, he became suddenly calm,
sat up, put out his hand toward the muzzles of the powerful yet docile
creatures, and spoke to them:

"Good fellows, good fellows! oh! yes, good fellows!"

Day began to break. And the great black bull and the white horse,
both, as if in answer to the man and in answer likewise to the first
gleam of returning day, which sent a thrill of delight over all the
plain, stretched out their necks toward the east; and the neighing of
the horse arose, loud and shrill as a flourish of trumpets, sustained
by the bass of the bull's bellowing.

Instantly a chorus of neighs and bellows arose on all sides of Renaud.
His free drove had passed the night in the neighborhood. He was
surrounded by the familiar forms of his own beasts.

They came at the call of Blanchet and Le Doux and the drover's voice.
The mares were white as salt. Some of them came trotting up, some
galloping, some followed by their foals; and passed their heads
between the reeds, peered curiously in, and stood there,--or else,
with a cunning air, set off again, as who should say: "There's the
tamer, let us be off!" And there was a great kicking and flinging of
heels away from the man's side.

Some bulls, thin, nervous black fellows, whipping their sides with
their long tails, also came up, took alarm, remembering that they had
been punished for some shortcoming, and, turning tail, decamped in the
same way, and when they were out of sight, suddenly stopped.

But as the _dondaïre_ remained there, few of the horses and cattle
left the spot.

Some, the oldest or the wisest, slowly assumed a kneeling posture, as
if to resume their interrupted repose, then, scenting the approaching
sun, wound their tongues about the tufts of salt grass, drew them into
their mouths and chewed placidly, while the silvery foam fell from
their muzzles.

Others, in the same posture, lazily licked their sides. A mother,
nursing her calf, watched him with a calm, gentle eye.

Here a stallion drew near a mare, reached her side in two bounds, with
tail in air and bristling mane, and bold, sonorous, trumpet-like
call--then reared, and when the mare leaped aside, bit at her and with
a sudden sidewise movement dodged the kick she aimed at him.

More than one bull, too, paid court to the other sex, rose clumsily
on his hind legs, only to fall again on his four feet, with nothing
beneath him.

The awakening of the drove was not complete. The animals were still
dull and heavy. They were awaiting the coming of the sun.

Renaud approached a half-broken stallion he had sometimes ridden, and
threw over his neck the _séden_ he had just coiled for that
purpose--Livette's _séden_ and Blanchet's, all stained with mud from
having brought so many beasts to earth.

He gave sugar to the wild creature, who allowed himself to be saddled
without overmuch resistance, desirous, perhaps, to enjoy for a day the
abundant supply of hay in the stables of the château, which he had not
forgotten.

"Go and rest, old fellow!" said Renaud to Blanchet.

And he set off on his fresh steed, spear in hand, with the idea of
seeking Rampal.

The stallion he rode was his favorite, the one he had named Prince.
And he felt a thrill of honest satisfaction as he said to himself that
at all events Livette's horse would not have to put up with his whims
and follies as a lover any more. He felt highly pleased at that
thought, being lightened of a threefold responsibility, as rider,
drover, and lover.

Prince seemed disappointed when Renaud compelled him to turn his back
on the Château d'Avignon.

He rode in the direction of the cabin mentioned by Audiffret. It was
very possible, after all, that Rampal had taken up his quarters there,
and he proposed to find out. Now, as this cabin was, as we have seen,
not in Camargue, but in Crau, not far from the Icard farm, between
nine and ten leagues to the eastward, it was necessary to cross the
main stream of the Rhône. But, in that vast plain, men rode long
distances for a _yes_ or a _no_, and thirty or forty kilomètres had no
terrors for Renaud.

From his present position, it seemed to him that his shortest road
would be to skirt the southern shore of the Vaccarès.

The cool, fresh morning air drove away all his black thoughts, his
visions and nightmares; he felt something like tranquillity. Moreover,
he was so overdone with weariness that he seemed half-asleep, and the
feeling was delicious. He no longer had the strength to follow his
thoughts, still less to guide them, so that he was submissive as a
blade of grass, as any inanimate thing, to the passing breeze, to the
sun's rays.

The hour and the coloring of the earth and sky were in very truth
enough to rejoice the heart, and physical gaiety took possession of
him, as he had ceased to reflect.

A fresh breeze, smelling of the sea, sent a shiver over the water and
the grass. The sun was rising. A moment more and he would appear to
cast his net of gold horizontally over the plain. He appeared. The
vague murmurs became distinct sounds; reflection changed to brilliant
light, drowsiness to activity.

Renaud, who was galloping along with his spear resting in his stirrup,
his head leaning heavily on the arm that held it and his eyes closed,
under the influence of the rocking motion of the horse, suddenly
reopened them, and looked about with the joyous glance of a king.

He paused a moment to gaze at a huge plough drawn by several horses,
which was transforming a wretched stony field into cleared land ready
for the vine.

The phylloxera, which has done so much harm in rich and healthy
districts, affords Camargue a new opportunity to fight the fever and
to gain ground on the swamp. The sand is, in fact, very favorable to
the vine and very unfavorable to the parasitic insect, and this watery
country will gradually become, please God, a genuine land of the vine!

Renaud watched the ploughman with a feeling of delight at the thought
of his native country being enriched by honest toil; and with a
confused feeling of regret, too, for he preferred that the moor should
remain uncultivated and wild and free. The idea of a flat plain,
tilled from end to end, where no room was left for the straying feet
of horses as God made them--that idea saddened him.

He would always say to himself as he rode through more civilized
regions: "Now there, you know, a man can neither live nor die."

The fields of wheat or oats, even in the summer season when they have
such a lovely reddish tinge, so like the overheated earth, so like the
turbid, gleaming waters of the Rhône, had no attraction for him. They
gave him the impression of an obstacle that he must ride his horse
around, and Renaud did not recognize the respectability of any
obstacle--except the sea!

He was more inclined to look favorably upon the vine, because it
seemed to him that it was a glorious thing for his country to produce
wine, just at the time when other districts in France had exhausted
their producing power. And then, the Rhône, the _mistral_, horses,
bulls, and wine, all seemed to him to go together, as things that told
of holiday-making, of manly strength and courage and joy. They knew
how to drink, never fear, did the men of Saint-Gilles and Arles and
Avignon. Renaud had attended wedding-parties more than once on the
island of Barthelasse in the middle of the Rhône, opposite Avignon,
and there he had tasted a red wine whose color he could still see. It
was an old Rhône wine, so they had told him, and he remembered that,
being desirous to do honor to the wine as well as to the bride, and
being a little exhilarated, he had solemnly thrown his cup into the
Rhône after the last bumper. There are, at the bottom of the Rhône,
many such cups, dead but not broken, from which joy was quaffed but
yesterday. They go gently down, turning over and over, through the
water to its sandy bed. There they sleep, covered with sand, and two
or three thousand years hence--who knows?--the venerable scholars of
that day will discover them, as they are discovering amphoræ of baked
earth at Trinquetaille to-day, and now and then beside them a glass
urn, wherein all the colors of the rainbow chase one another about as
soon as its robe of dust is removed.

Who can say that Renaud's brittle glass, from which he drank the best
wine of his youth, will not remain for ages full of the sand and water
of the Rhône, and that--in days to come--other youths will not find
therein the same delight? For everything begins anew.

Thus did the wanderer's thoughts wander from point to point, from vine
to glass. Ah! that glass of his, thrown into the Rhône! His mind
recurred once more to that memory of a debauch. It seemed to him now,
that, by throwing it into the river on the wedding-day, he had
foretold his own destiny, and that he, Livette's fiancé, would never
be married! He would drink no more from the discarded glass.

The first impulse of delight that came to him with the newness of the
morning had already passed; his sadness had returned as the day lost
the charm that attaches to a thing just beginning.

Dreaming thus, Renaud rode across the marshes, Prince splashing
through the water up to his thighs.

Yes, my friends, he forgave the vine, did Renaud, for invading
Camargue.

Moreover, after the harvest was gathered, did not the red and white
vineyards afford excellent pasturage for the bulls? There are some
that are all red in the autumn, and others all white, or of a light
golden yellow--as if the vines had amused themselves by reproducing
the two colors of the wine under the gorgeous sunsets. He has seen
nothing who has not seen the beams of the setting sun, in November,
now yellow as gold, now red as blood, spreading over a field of red
vines, over a field of yellow vines, which themselves spread out as
far as the eye can reach. Indeed, is not Camargue the home of the
_lambrusque_? The _lambrusque_ is the wild, Camarguese vine, different
from our cultivated vines in that the male and female are on separate
plants. The grapes that grow on the female _lambrusque_ make a
somewhat tart but pleasant wine, and the shoots of the vine make
light, stout staves for the hand.

Arrived at Grand Pâtis, Renaud swam the Rhône three times, from
Camargue to Ile Mouton, from Ile Mouton to Ile Saint-Pierre, and from
Ile Saint-Pierre to the mainland.

He was now in the swamps of Crau, a stony desert adjoining Camargue,
which is a desert of mud.

To the eye these two deserts seem to join hands across the Rhône. From
Aigues-Mortes to the pond of Berre is a pretty stretch of flat
country, my friends, and the sea-eagle, try as he may, cannot make it
less than twenty good leagues in a straight line! And that is the
kingdom of King Renaud.

Camargue has its saltwort, its grain and plantains and burdocks,
growing in small clumps, with sandy intervals between; it has its
_gapillons_, which are green rushes split into bouquets, with
thousands of sharp points finer than needles; and here and there
tamarisk-trees; and, on the banks of the two Rhônes, great elms, so
often cut and hacked to procure wood to burn, that they resemble huge
caterpillars sitting erect upon their tails, their short hair
bristling as if in anger.

Crau is a land of naked plains and heather. It is, to tell the truth,
a veritable field of stones. They have come, people say, from Mont
Blanc, all the stones that now lie sleeping there. The Rhône and the
Durance have borne them down, then changed their beds, after having
jousted together on the vast space at the foot of the little Alps.
From beneath the stones of Crau, in May, there springs a rare,
delicate plant, the _paturin_, or dog's tooth. The sheep push the
stone away with their noses and browse upon the slender stalks while
the shepherd stands and dreams in the wind and sun.

But this stony Crau is farther away, beyond the pond of Ligagnou,
which skirts the river. Here, in the Crau that lies along the banks of
the Rhône, we are in the midst of the marshes, which are dry during
the greater part of the year; some of them, however, are very
treacherous, and one should know them well.

Renaud rode in a northeasterly direction, and soon reached the
neighborhood of the Icard farm.

He drew rein.

"Where is the hiding-place?" he muttered.

And he tried with all his eyes to pierce the thick underbrush of
reeds, rushes, cat-tails, sedges, and bull-rushes, springing from the
midst of a deep bog. This bog did not seem, to the eye, more
formidable than another, but the bulls and mares feared it and
carefully avoided it.

On the surface of the water was what looked like a thick crust of
mouldy verdure. It was not, however, the leprous formation of
duck-weed that lies sleeping on our stagnant ponds. It was a sort of
felt-like substance, composed of dead rushes, roots, twined and
twisted weeds, which made a solid but movable crust upon the water,
swaying beneath the feet that ventured upon it, ready to bear their
weight for a moment and ready to give way beneath them.

This crust (the _transtaïère_) was broken with fissures here and
there, through which the water could be seen, dark as night, its
surface flecked with transient specks of light, gleaming like a mirror
of black glass. Around the edges, at the foot of the scattered
tamarisks, grew reeds innumerable in thick clusters, always rustling
against one another, and incessantly brushed, with a noise like
rustling paper, by the slender wings of the dragon-flies with their
monster-like heads.

Many of these _canéous_ bear white flowers streaked with purple. As
they rise above one another on the long stalks, you would take them
for the flowers of a tall marsh-mallow. These reeds, with their long
leaves, remind one of the _thyrsi_ of antiquity, left standing there
in the damp earth by bacchantes who have gone to rest somewhere near
at hand in the shade of the tamarisks, or to abandon themselves to the
centaurs. They make one think, also, of the wand of the fable, which,
when planted in the ground, was at once covered with flowers, and
thereby had power over marriages.

These _thyrsi_ of the bog are reeds besieged by climbing plants. The
convolvulus fastens itself to the reed, twines its arms about it,
rises in a spiral course, seeks the sunlight at its summit, and robes
the long murmuring stalk in brilliant and harmonious colors.

The sharp leaves of the young reeds stand erect like lance-heads. The
older ones break off and fell at right angles. The delicate, graceful
foliage of the tamarisks is like a transparent cloud, and their little
pink flowers, hanging in clusters that are too heavy for the branches,
especially before they open, cause the flexible plumes of the
gracefully rounded tree-top to bend in every direction.

Through the reeds and tamarisks Renaud sought to discover the hut that
he knew, and that Audiffret had spoken of to him the night before. But
he could hardly distinguish the little inclined cross placed at the
highest point of the roof of all the Camargue cabins, which are built
of joists, boards, grayish mud (_tape_), and straw. The cabin was
formerly entirely visible from the spot where he stood, but the reeds
had grown so thickly on the islet on which it was built, that they
completely hid it. The path leading to it was on the opposite side of
the bog. He must make a wide détour in order to reach it, the bog _de
la Cabane_, so called, being of a very erratic shape.

From the south side of the cabin he went around to the north side. He
no longer had the _transtaïère_ in front of him; but beneath the
surface of the water, where reeds and thorn-broom flourish, was the
_gargate_, the slime, wherein he who steps foot is quickly buried.

There are many other dangers in these accursed bogs. There are the
_lorons_, a sort of bottomless well found here and there under the
water, the location of which must be thoroughly understood. The mares
and heifers know them and are clever in avoiding them, but now and
then one of them falls in, and now and then a man as well. And he who
falls in remains. No time for argument, my man! You are in--adieu!

The drovers will tell you, and it is the truth, that from every
_loron_ comes a little twisting column of smoke, by which those mouths
of hell can be located. A hundred _lorons_, a hundred columns of
smoke. There, my friends, is something to dream about, is it not, when
the malignant fever, bred in the swamps, smites you on the hip?

Renaud was anxious to know if Rampal was occupying the cabin, but not
to attack him there, for it is a treacherous spot. "If he is there, he
will come out some time or other. I will wait for him on the solid
ground. Ah! I see the path!"

It was a winding path hiding under a sheet of shallow water. The bed
of the path was of stones, very narrow but very firm, the right edge
being marked, as far as the cabin, by stakes at short intervals, just
on a level with the water.

Renaud dismounted, and looked for the first stake, holding his horse
by the rein. Although he knew its location, it took him some time to
find it. With the end of his spear he put aside the grass, and when he
discovered the stake, he felt for the solid road whose width it
measured. Bending over, he gazed long and very closely at the grasses
and the reeds, which met in places above the concealed pathway, and
when he rose he was certain that it had not been used for some time.

He was not mistaken. In truth, Rampal was a little suspicious of that
hiding-place, which was too well known, he thought, and to which he
could easily be traced. He often slept in the neighborhood, ready to
take refuge in the _cul-de-sac_, if it should become necessary, but he
preferred, meanwhile, to feel at liberty, with plenty of open space
about him.

Renaud remounted Prince, and crossed the Rhône again an hour later.

That night he lay in one of the great cabins which serve as
stables--winter _jasses_--for the droves of mares, in those months
when the weather is so bad that the bulls can find no pasturage except
by breaking the ice with their horns.

The next day, an hour before noon, he saw before him the church of
Saintes-Maries standing out like a lofty ship against the blue
background of the sea.

Little black curlews were flying hither and thither around it, mingled
with a flock of great sea-gulls with gracefully rounded wings.

A cart was moving slowly over the sandy road.

"Good-day, Renaud."

"Good-day, Marius. Where are you going?"

"To carry fish to Arles."

Marius raised the branches which apparently made up his load, but
which were simply used to shade a dozen or more baskets and hampers.
Well pleased with his freight, he put aside the cloth that was spread
over his treasure under the branches. Baskets and hampers were filled
to the brim with fish taken in the ponds and the sea. There were
mullet and bream, still alive, animated prisms with mouths and gills
wide open like bright red marine flowers amid a mass of dark-blue,
olive-green, and gleaming gold. There were enormous eels, too, caught
for the most part in the canals of Camargue, which are veritable
fish-preserves.

The dark-hued, slippery creatures twisted in and out, tying and
untying endless slip-knots with their snake-like bodies. By the livid
spots upon some of the great eels, Renaud recognized them as _murænæ_,
possessors of voracious mouths, well stocked with sharp teeth.

"See how they all keep moving!" said Marius.

At that moment, as if to justify his words, a great flat fish flapped
out of one of the baskets and fell to the ground.

With the end of his three-pronged spear the mounted drover nailed him
to the earth to prevent his leaping into the ditch, filled with water,
that ran along the road.

"Hallo!" said he in surprise, "isn't that a cramp-fish. When I spear
one of them with my regular fish-spear, which is longer than this
three-pronged one, it gives me a shock I didn't feel at all to-day."

"That's because the fish is in the water then, and your spear is
damp," said Marius, laughing. "But let the fellow stay there," he
added. "He isn't worth much. The snakes will have a feast on him."

Thereupon, horseman and fisherman went their respective ways.

The drover's thoughts wandered from the cramp-fish and the _murænæ_ to
the electric fish of America, of which old sailors had spoken to him.
They had told him that it was charged with electricity like the
cramp-fish, but resembled the conger more in shape, and that it could,
with its overpowering current, kill a horse; in order to make it
exhaust its stock of electricity, so that it can safely be taken, it
is customary to send wild horses into the water against it; they
receive the first shock, and sometimes die from the effects.

As he rode on toward Saintes-Maries, Renaud mused in a vague way upon
the miracles of life, which there is naught to explain.



XII

A SORCERESS


Livette did not go to sleep. When Renaud had passed out of sight in
the darkness, she softly closed her windows, and, throwing herself on
the bed with her face buried in the pillow, wept in dismay.

Meanwhile,--while Livette was weeping and Renaud, bewitched, was
galloping over the moor, fancying that he was pursued by the
gipsy,--the gipsy herself was asleep.

The two beings whose lives she was beginning to destroy were already
suffering a thousand deaths, and she, lying, fully dressed, under one
of the carts of her tribe, in their regularly pitched camp outside the
village, was sleeping tranquilly, her pretty, puzzling face smiling at
the stars of that lovely May night.

When Renaud left her, at sunset, all naked on the beach, she had
slowly stretched her sun-burned arms, taking pleasure in the sense of
being naked in the open air, of feeling the caressing breath of the
sea-breeze that dried the great drops of water rolling down her body.
Then, still slowly, she had dressed herself,--very slowly, in order to
postpone as long as possible the renewed subjection to the annoyance
of clothes, in order to enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement, like a
wild beast.

She had then walked along the beach, leaving the imprint of her bare,
well-shaped foot in the sand, covered at intervals by a shallow wave
that gradually washed away the mark.

The last kiss of the sea upon her feet, to which a bit of sparkling
sand clung, delighted her. She laughed at the water, played with it,
avoiding it sometimes with a sudden leap, and sometimes going forward
to meet it, teasing it.

She fancied that she could see, in the undulating folds of the
wavelets, the tame snakes which she sometimes charmed with the notes
of a flute, and which would thereupon come to her and twine about her
arms and neck, and which were at that moment waiting for her, lying on
their bed of wool at the bottom of their box in her wagon.

She had already ceased to think of Renaud. She was always swayed by
the dominating thought of the moment, never feeling regret or remorse
for what was past,--having no power of foresight, except by flashes,
at such times as passion and self-interest bade her exert it. Her
reflection was but momentary, by fits and starts, so to speak; and
her depth, her power, the mystery that surrounded her, were due to her
having no heart, and, consequently, no conscience.

The men and women who approached her might hope or fear something at
her hands, imagine that she had determined upon this or that course,
and try to defeat her plan; but she never had any plan, which fact led
them astray beforehand.

She routed her enemies and triumphed over them, first of all, by
indifference; and then she would abruptly cast aside her indolence,
like an animal, at the bidding of a passion or a whim, and would still
render naught every means of defence--her attack, her decisions, her
clever wiles, being always spontaneous, born of circumstances as they
presented themselves.

No: she made no plans beforehand, in cold blood; she never concocted
any complicated scheme; but she could, at need, invent one on the spur
of the moment and carry it out instantly, at a breath,--or perhaps she
would begin to execute it in frantic haste, and abandon it almost
immediately from sheer _ennui_, to think no more of it until the day
that some burst of passion should suddenly bring it back to her mind.

She was like a spider spinning its whole web in the twinkling of an
eye to catch the fly on the wing; or she would spin the first thread
only, and forget it until something happened to remind her to spin a
second.

Thus constituted, she was at the same time better and worse than
other women, because she was more changeable than the surface of the
water,--because she was of the color of the moment.

Being a fatalist, the gipsy said to herself that whatever is to
happen, happens, and she had never taken the trouble to devise a
scheme of revenge. She would simply utter a threat, knowing well that
the terror inspired by a prediction is the first calamity that
prepares the way for others, by disturbing the mind and heart and
judgment. And then, something always goes wrong in the course of a
year, collaborating, so to speak, with the sorcerer, and attributed by
the victim to the "evil spell" cast upon him. It is upon him, in
reality, because he believes that it is. In short, if opportunity
offered, she would assist the mischievous propensities of fate, with a
word, a gesture, a trifle--and, if opportunity did offer, it was
because it was decreed long ages ago, written in the book of destiny
that so it should be!

A true creature of instinct, the gipsy had no other secret than that
she had none.

She followed her impulses, satisfied her desire for revenge, her love
or her hate, without stopping to consider anything or anybody; and,
like the wild beast, she, a human being, became an object of dread to
civilized people, as nature itself is. Such creatures are implacable.
The gipsy loved life, and lived as animals live, without reflection.
It was the paltry yet profound mystery of the sphinx repeated. Her
actions were those of a brute, not far removed from the lower types of
mankind, notwithstanding her lovely human face, in which the eyes,
like Pan's, not clear, seemed veiled with falsehood because they were
veiled to their own sight with their own lack of knowledge, their
uncertainty and suspense. Look at the eyes of a goat or a heifer. They
are as deep as Bestiality, cunning and strong, cowering in the shadow
of the sacred wood. Life longs to live. It is lying in ambush there.
It is sure of her and bides its time. The human beast not only has
more craft than the fox or tiger, but has the power of speech as well.
Nothing is more horrible than words without a conscience.

After all, Zinzara was always sincere, although she never appeared so,
because her versatility placed her from moment to moment in
contradiction with herself.

The caress and the wound that one received from her in rapid
succession did not prove that she had feigned love or hate. She did,
in fact, love and hate by turns, from moment to moment, or rather,
without loving or hating, she acted in accordance with her own fancy,
sincere in her contradictions--and very artlessly withal.

She bore some resemblance to the ape, as it sits among the branches,
softly rocking its little one in its arms with an almost human air,
then suddenly relaxes its hold and lets its offspring fall, forgotten,
to the ground, in order to pluck a fruit that hangs near by.

She was a personage of importance in her own eyes, and she saw nobody
but herself at all times and under all circumstances.

The gipsy was formidable, as a spirit concealed in an element whose
slave it should be. She had the force of a thunderbolt, of an
earthquake, of any fatal occurrence impossible to foresee or to ward
off.

The viper is not evil-minded. He does not prepare his own venom. He
finds it all prepared. Disturb him, and he bites before he makes up
his mind to do it.

Like the cramp-fish or the electric eel, the gipsy could discharge a
fatal current of electricity as soon as you approached her,--by virtue
of the very necessity of existence. It might happen to her also to
indulge in the sport of exerting her malignant power around her, for
no reason, simply to watch its effects, because it was her day and her
hour, her whim.

She had the same means of defence and amusement.

It was not in her nature to be malignant. It simply was not necessary
for her to think of you, that was all. As a matter of fact, a man was
fortunate if she did not look at him.

Although born of a race that holds chastity in high esteem, she was
not chaste; not that she loved debauchery above everything else, but
she used it as a means of domination,--the more unfailing because she
made little account of it. Always superior, in her coldness, to the
passion she inspired, it was in that more than all else that she
really felt herself a queen, a sorceress--aye, a goddess, by favor of
the devil! The caress of the water in which she bathed afforded her
more pleasure than it afforded others. She was like the female plant
of the _lambrusque_, which is fertilized by the wind.

Like the mares of Camargue, that often assemble on the shore to
breathe the fresh sea air,--when she opened her lips to the salty
breeze, on those fine May evenings, she was happier than any man's
kiss could make her. The wandering spirit of her race breathed upon
her lips, in the air, with the freedom of the boundless waste--a vague
hope, vain and unending.

Being thus constituted, she knew that she exercised a disturbing
influence upon others, and that she was herself protected by something
that relieved her of responsibility. That thought filled her with
pride. There was a reflection of that pride in her smile. There was
also the constant remembrance of the sensations she had experienced,
known to her alone, and a certain number of men, who knew nothing of
one another.

Their ignorance, which was her work, also made her smile. And that
smile was a mixture of irony and contempt. She knew her own strength
and their weakness. So she was always smiling.

With no other policy than this, she reigned over her nomadic tribe,
changing her favorite, like a genuine queen, as chance or her own
impulses willed, but giving each one of them to believe that he was
the only man she had ever really loved, even if he were not her first
lover.

To deceive the _zingari_--that was a notable triumph for a _zingara_!

Among the fifteen or twenty children in her party, there was a young
dauphin, the queen's offspring; but since he had left her breast, she
had bestowed no more care upon him than the bitch bestows upon her
puppy some day to become her mate.

When she came near her camping-ground, excited by her recent contact
with the waves and the salt, which, as it dried upon her, pressed
against her soft, velvety flesh, the gipsy, tingling with warmth in
every vein, cast a sidelong glance at one of the male members of the
tribe, a young man with a bronzed skin and thin, curly beard.

And, in the darkness,--when they had eaten the soup cooked in the
kettle that hung from three stakes in the open air,--the _zingaro_
glided to the _zingara's_ side.

At that very moment, by her fault, two human beings were suffering in
the inmost recesses of their consciences, where Livette and Renaud
were gazing at each other with eyes in which there was no look of
recognition.

The betrothed lovers, her victims, were struggling under the evil
spell cast upon them by her glance, at the moment that that glance
seemed to grow tender in response to that with which her lover
enveloped her, on the edge of the ditch, beneath the feeble light of
the stars.

Renaud at that moment was dreaming that he had seen the naked gipsy
again and triumphed over her, and was asking himself, at the memory of
that robust, youthful form, if she were not a virgin, even though a
child of the high-road; recalling confusedly a strange, overpowering,
absolute passion, the triumphal possession of a new being, a heifer
hitherto wild and vicious, even to the bulls; of a mare that had never
known bit or saddle, and had maintained a rebellious attitude in
presence of the stallion.

Renaud was dreaming all that, but Renaud no longer existed for
Zinzara.

Zinzara, just at that moment, in the dew-drenched grass, was writhing
about like the legendary conger-eel, that comes out of the sea to
abandon itself to the labyrinthine caresses of the reptiles on the
shore.

Two days Livette waited, wondering what was taking place. Weary at
last of seeking without finding, she set out for Saintes-Maries on the
morning of the third day.

"There," she thought, "I may, perhaps, hear some news."

Her father saddled an honest old horse for her use.

"You must go to Tonin the fisherman's at noon," said he, "and eat your
_bouille-abaisse_. Send him word, when you arrive, with a good-day
from me."

Livette, as she rode along, looked about her at the peaceful green
fields, joyous and bright in the light that fell from the sky and the
light that rose on all sides from the water.

The gnats danced merrily in the sunbeams. When the gnats dance, they
furnish the music for the ball with their wings, and on calm days
there is a sound like the strumming of a guitar on the golden strings
of light over all the plain. There were also in the air long, slender
threads,--the "threads of the Virgin," or gossamer,--come from no one
knows where, which waved gently to and fro, as if some of the fragile
strings of the invisible instrument on which the little musicians of
the air perform, being broken, had become visible, and were floating
away at the pleasure of a breath.

It may be that those threads came from a long distance. It may be that
the toiling spiders who patiently spun them lived in the forests of
the Moors, in Estérel. A breath of air had taken them up very gently,
and now they were on their travels.

Livette watched them floating quietly by, and thought of a tale her
grandmother had told her. According to the grandmother, the threads
came from the cloaks spread to the wind as sails by the three holy
women. The wind, as it filled them, had unravelled them a little, very
carefully; and the slender threads, taken long ago from the woof of
the miraculous cloaks, hover forever above the sands of Camargue,
where stands the church of the holy women.--Above the strand they
hover night and day, as so many tokens of God's blessing; but they are
rarely visible, and if, by chance, on a fine day, you do see them, it
means that some great good fortune is in store for you.

In the transparent azure of the morning sky Livette's heart clung to
each of the passing threads; but the child tried in vain to acquire
confidence,--her heart was too heavy to remain long attached to the
fleeting things. She was afraid, poor child, and felt influences at
work against her that she could not see.

Alas! while the golden threads floated over her head, the black spider
was weaving his web somewhere about, to catch her like a fly.

Still musing, Livette rode on, and could distinguish at last, far
before her, the swallows and martins soaring above the steeple. They
were so far away you would have said they were swarms of gnats. And
with the swallows and martins were numberless sea-mews. This host of
wings, large and small, now dark as seen from below, now bright and
gleaming as seen from above, turned and twirled and gyrated in
countless intricate, interlacing circles. Instinct with the spirit of
the spring-time and the morning, they were frolicking in the fresh,
clear air.

It occurred to Livette to ride by the public spring in quest of
news, for it was the hour when the women and maidens of
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer go thither to procure their daily supply of
water.

As she entered the village, she noticed the gipsy camp at her right
hand, but turned her head.

At that moment, she met two women on their way to the spring, walking
steadily between the two bars, the ends of which they held in their
hands, and from which, exactly in the middle, the water-jug was
suspended by its two ears.

"It is just the time for the spring," said Livette to herself, and she
followed them at a foot-pace.

"Good-day, mademoiselle," the women said as they passed, for the
pretty maiden of the Château d'Avignon was known to everybody.

There was as yet no one at the spring. The two women waited, and
Livette with them.

"How do you happen to be riding about so early, mademoiselle? Are you
looking for some one?"

"I am out for a ride," said Livette, "and as it's the time for drawing
water, I thought I would stop here a moment. My friends will surely
come sooner or later."

No more was said, and Livette, having nothing else to do, looked
closely for the first time at the carved stone escutcheon in the
centre of the high arched wall above the spring. It is the town crest,
and it is needless to say that it includes a boat, a boat without mast
or oars, in which the two Maries--Jacobé and Salomé--are standing.

"I have often wondered," said Livette, "why they put only the figures
of two holy women in the boat. For haven't our mothers always told us
there were three of them? Were there three or not?"

"Certainly there were three, my pretty innocent," said the older of
the two women, "but Sara was the servant, and no honor is due to her."

"If the third was Saint Sara, then there were not three Marys, eh? But
I have always heard it said that the Magdalen was there, and that she
went away from here and died at Sainte-Baume."

"Yes, so she was, and many others besides! Lazarus was in the boat,
too, but when they were once on shore, every one went his own way:
Magdalen went to Baume, and the two Maries and Sara remained with us.
That was when a spring came out of the sand, by the favor of our Lord.
When they built the church, they walled in the spring in the centre of
it."

"Faith, they would have done well to leave the spring outside the
church!"

"Why so? is the water spoiled by it?"

"It's only good on the fête-day."

"After so many years! And there's so little of it!"

"We ought to have asked the saints to make it pure and abundant. If we
had all set about it with our prayers, they would have done it for
us."

"One miracle more or less!"

"The miracles, my dear, are only for strangers."

"And that is just what we need, neighbor. If it wasn't so, you see,
strangers wouldn't come any more--and without them what would the
country live on? poor we! Where are our harvests? Where are our wheat
and our grain, good people, tell me that? If it wasn't for the saints,
this would be a cursed country! One fête-day a year, and the
pilgrims--God bless them!--fill our purses for us."

"Miracle days are only too few and far between. We ought to have two
fête-days a year!"

"What are you saying, you foolish woman? Two fête-days a year! Mother
of God! That would mean death to pilgrimages. To keep the custom
going, everything must be just as it is and nothing change at all. Our
men know that well enough. Remember the visit the Archbishop of Aix
and those great ladies paid us twenty years ago."

And once more the story was told of the visit of the Archbishop of Aix
to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer twenty or thirty years before.

On a certain 24th of May the archbishop arrived at Saintes-Maries with
several elderly ladies of the nobility of Aix. But it so happened that
that 24th of May was the evening of the 25th! Anybody may be
mistaken!--So that, instead of being lowered at four o'clock, the
reliquaries were raised again on that day, and when monseigneur
entered the church with his fair companions, it was good-by, saints!
They had already been hoisted up at the end of their ropes to the
lofty chapel, amid the singing of canticles.

"Oh! well!" said the archbishop to the curé, "they must come down
again for us."

The curé was about to obey, but a rumor of what was going on had
already spread through the village!--Ah! bless my soul, what a
commotion!

"What!" said the old villagers. "They would lower the reliquaries on
some other day than the 24th, would they? Why, if it is such a simple
thing and can be done so often, why do you make the poor devils from
every corner of Provence and all the rest of the world come hurrying
to us on a special day? No, no, it would be the ruin of the country,
that is certain!"

To make a long story short, the people of Saintes-Maries took their
guns, and under arms, in the church itself, compelled the prince of
the Church to respect the sovereign will of the people of the town.

And they did very well, for rarity is the quality by virtue of which
miracles retain their value.

One of the women having told this anecdote, which was perfectly well
known to them all, they began, as soon as she had finished, to make up
for their long silence by loud talk, vying with one another in their
approval of the villagers' revolt against the bishops, who would have
abused the good-will of the two Maries.

"We are very lucky, all the same," said one of the old women, "to have
a good well with good stone walls instead of the brackish spring the
saints had to get their drinking-water from. I can remember the time
when we got our water from the _pousaraque_ (artificial pond), as the
people on our farms do to-day. The Rhône water that was brought into
them through the canals was always so thick and muddy you could cut it
with a knife!"

"Bah! it had time enough to settle in our jars."

"It is funny, though, to be so hard up for water in such a wet
country!" said a young woman who had just arrived. "This water is a
nuisance! Saint Sara, the servant, ought to have known from experience
that a woman has enough work to do at home without wasting her time
waiting in front of closed spigots. Saint Sara, protect us, and make
them turn on the water!"

The women began to laugh.

Almost all the housekeepers of Saintes-Maries had assembled by this
time. A last group arrived upon the scene. Some carried jars, without
handles, upon their heads, balancing them by a graceful swaying of the
whole body. With their hands upon their hips, they themselves were not
unlike living amphoræ. Others, having one jug upon the head, carried
another in each hand--the stout _dourgue_, with handle and mouth;
others had wooden pails, others, glass jars, each having selected a
larger or smaller vessel, according to the necessities of her
household.

"What sort of a pot have you there, Félicité?"

Whereat there was a general laugh.

She to whom the question was directed, replied:

"I broke my jug, poor me! And, as I had to have some water, I took an
old thing I found that has always been standing behind the door at our
house since I can remember. If it will hold water, it will do for me
to-day, my dear!"

"Take it to monsieur le curé for his library; it's an antique, and is
worth money!"

Félicité had, in fact, come to the spring with a genuine Roman
amphora, found in the sandy bed of the Rhône--a jar two thousand years
old and hardly chipped!

Each family at Saintes-Maries is entitled to one or two jars of water
each day, according to the number of its members.--The water had not
begun to flow.

Livette, sitting upon her horse, thoughtful and sad amid the chatter,
was still awaiting her friends.

"What were you saying just now?" asked some late comers.

And having been informed, each one of them proceeded to expound her
ideas upon the subject of the saints and Sara the bondwoman, paying no
heed to what the others were saying--so that the jabbering of the
women and girls seemed like a _Ramadan_ of magpies and jays assembled
in one of the isolated clumps of pines so often seen in Camargue.

"I would like to know if it's fair," cried one of the women, "not to
put in Saint Sara's portrait, too! A saint's a saint, and where
there's a saint there isn't any servant!"

"The saints aren't proud! and Saint Sara cares mighty little whether
her picture's there or not!"

"She may not care, but it was an insult to her!"

"Oh!" said another, "good King René and the Pope knew what they were
doing when they arranged things so. Sara was Pontius Pilate's wife,
and she was the one who advised her husband to wash his hands of the
heathens' crime!"

A murmur of reproof ran from mouth to mouth among the gossips.

"Ah! here's old Rosine, she'll set us right."

Motionless upon her horse Livette listened vaguely. She was
absent-minded, yet interested.

When old Rosine, who was very deaf, had finally been made to
understand what was wanted of her, and that she was expected to give
her views concerning Sara the bondwoman, she began:

"Ah! my children, God knows his own, and Sara was a great saint, for
sure----"

Here Rosine crossed herself, and was at once imitated by all the old
women.

"But," added Rosine, "Sara was a heathen woman from Egypt, and not a
Jewess of Judea; and the heathens, you see, come a long way after the
Jews in the world's esteem. Don't you see that the Jews are scattered
all over the world, but they stay everywhere, and become masters by
force of avarice. That is their way of being blessed by their Lord.
But the heathens of Egypt, on the contrary, are wanderers and poor,
although they are thieves, and more scattered and more accursed than
the Jews. Well, you see, my children, Saint Sara is their saint, the
saint of the Egyptian heathens! She wasn't a very good Catholic saint,
to pay the boatman for her passage by a sight of her naked body--with
the indifference of an old sinner, I fancy! So it is right that she
should come after the two Marys, for there are different ranks in
heaven. And that is why Saint Sara's bones are not between the boards
of the great shrine in the church, but under the glass of the little
shrine in the crypt--or the cellar, you might say. The cellar is a
good enough place--under the feet of Christians--for miserable
gipsies! And it is right that it should be so."

"What Rosine says is true!" cried one of the women. "These frequent
visits of the gipsies are the ruin of the country. When our pilgrims
come, rich and poor, do you suppose they like to find all these
scamps, who are so clever at stealing folks' handkerchiefs and purses,
settled here before them? Don't you suppose that drives people away
from us? How many there are who would like to come, but don't care to
compromise themselves by being found in such company!"

"Bah! such nonsense!" said a humpbacked woman; "those who have faith
don't stop half-way for such a small matter! And those who have some
troublesome disease and hope to cure it here aren't afraid of the
thieves nor their vermin. Take away my hump, mighty saints, and I will
undertake to get rid of my lice and my fleas one by one, without any
assistance!"

This speech was greeted by a roar of laughter, which stopped abruptly,
as if by enchantment. The little gate to the spring was opened at
last, and, at the sound of the water rushing from the pipe, all the
women ran to take their places in the line--not without some trifling
disputes for precedence.

At last, some of Livette's girl friends arrived. Spying them at some
little distance, she went to meet them.

"What brings Livette here so early, on horseback?" said the women,
when she had moved away.

"Why, she's looking for her rascal of a Renaud, of course!" said the
hunchback. "That fellow isn't used to being tied like a goat to a
stake, and the little one will have a hard time to keep him true to
her, for all her fine _dot_!--The other day, Rampal--you know, the
drover, a good fellow--saw him at a distance on the beach talking with
a gipsy who wasn't dressed for winter!"

"Not dressed for winter? what do you mean?"

"She wore no furs, nor cloak, nor anything else, poor me! She was
taking a bath as God made her. The plain isn't a safe place for that
sort of thing. You think you can't be seen because you think you can
see a long distance yourself, but a tuft of heather is enough for the
lizard to hide his two eyes behind while he looks."

Again the women began to chuckle and laugh, but for a moment only.

Meanwhile, Livette's friends were saying to her:

"No, we haven't seen your sweetheart, my dear; but they are already
putting the benches in place against the church for the branding, and
he can't fail to be here soon."

At that moment, a strain of weird music arose not far away. It was
produced by a flute, and the notes, softly modulated at first, were
abruptly changed to heart-rending shrieks. A strange, dull, monotonous
accompaniment seemed to encourage the sick heart, that called for help
with piercing cries.

"Hark! there are the gipsies and their devil's music, Livette. Just go
and look--it is such an amusing sight. We will join you in a little
while."

"What about my horse?" said Livette.

"If you haven't come to stay, there's a heavy iron bracelet just set
into the wall of the church to hold the bars of the enclosure for the
branding. Tie your horse to that, and don't be afraid that he will
disappear. Every one will know he's yours by those pretty letters in
copper nails you have had put on your saddle-bow."

Livette fastened her horse to the ring in the church-wall, and walked
in the direction of the gipsy music. It seemed to her that she might
probably learn something there.

Now, Zinzara the Egyptian had seen Livette ride into the village, and
her music had no other purpose than to attract her, and Renaud, her
fiancé, with her, if he were there. Why? to see;--to bring together
for an instant, with no fixed purpose, upon the same point of the vast
world through which she wandered, two of the personages with whom she
"beguiled her time;" to look on at the comedy of life, and to watch
the sequel, with the inclination to give an evil turn to it, chance
aiding. She loved the anomalies that result from the chaotic jumbling
together of circumstances.

Zinzara was turning a kaleidoscope whose field was vast like the
horizon of her never-ending travels, and whose bits of glass,
multicolored, were living souls.--She turned the wheel to see what
calamity destiny, with her assistance, would bring to pass. The
amusement of a woman, of a sorceress.



XIII

THE SNAKE-CHARMER


Life is an enigma. The everlasting silence of space is but the endless
murmuring of invisible circles which, twining in and out, part and
meet again, lose and never find one another, or are inextricably
interwoven forever. Life is an enigma. We can see something of its
beginning, nothing of its close; its meaning escapes us, but all the
links make the chain, and some one knows the rest.

That there are two ends to the ladder is certain. Day is not night,
and one does not exist without the other. There are joy and sorrow,
health and sickness, happiness and unhappiness, life and death--in a
word, good and evil, for the beast of flesh and bone. This is a good
man, that a bad. Religion and morals have nothing to do with it, and
afford no explanation; but little children know that it is so, and
fools know it likewise. They who undertake to reason the thing out
learnedly, befog it. They who pull the thread break it. There is some
one and there is something. Nothing is null, I tell you, my good
friends, and yonder drivelling old idiot, sitting on the stone at the
foot of the Calvary before the church, and holding out his hand to
Livette, knows two things better than we--good and evil. The idiot,
when he passed the gipsies' wagons in the morning, talked amicably,
yes, he talked for some minutes with two or three gaunt dogs chained
up under the wagons; but when he saw Zinzara, the queen, fix her eyes
upon him, the idiot was afraid and limped away as fast as he could. He
was afraid because _there was_, in Zinzara's look, _something not
good_.

And now Livette, as she passes by, glances at him, and the idiot--poor
human worm--smiles and holds out to her a glass pearl,--a treasure in
his eyes,--which he found that morning in the filth of the gutter near
by. The pearl glistens. It is bright blue. The idiot sees beauty in
it, and offers it to the pretty girl passing by. Livette smiles at
him, and he, the drivelling idiot, the cripple who drags himself along
the ground, laughs back at Livette. He laughs and feels his man's
heart vaguely opening within him--why?--because of _something good_ in
Livette's eyes.

God is above us, and the devil beneath us. God? what do you mean by
God? Kindly humanity, which is above us and toward which we are
ascending; the ideal, evolved from ourselves which, by dint of
declaring itself and compelling love, will be realized in our
children. The devil? what is that? the obscure beast, the ravenous,
blind worm, which we were, and from which we are moving farther and
farther away.

There is something nearer the mystery than the mind, and that
something is the instinct. Certainly we are nearer to our origin than
to our end, and instinct almost explains the origin because it is
still near at hand, but the mind cannot explain the end because it is
still so far away! Whence come we? The crawling beast may
suspect.--Whither go we? How can the beast tell, when he cannot fly?

The bond that binds us fast to earth is not cut. Man bears forever the
scar of his birth. He has, therefore, always before him evidence of
how he is connected with infinity _behind_ him; but how he is
connected, by death, with the life everlasting, _before_ him, he does
not see.

Instinct, like a glow-worm, lights up the depths from which man comes
forth, but intelligence casts no light into the boundless expanse on
high, wherein it loses itself, just at the point where God
begins.--Ah! how mysterious is God!

Yes, between the intelligence and man's origin, instinct stretches
like a bridge. Between the intelligence and man's end, there is a
yawning chasm. The reason cannot cross it. There is no way but to
leap. Man finds it easy to imagine what lies below; his own weight
draws him down to a point where he can understand it.

To understand what is above, it is essential to have a power of
lightening one's self, a wing which man has not. Here instinct acts
upon the mind in a direction opposed to mental effort.

To some minds this faculty of rising sometimes comes, but man's
conceptions depend upon his experiences, and the time has passed when
reliance was placed upon the "wise men," upon those whose conceptions
far outran their experiences. Perhaps it is better so. Perhaps every
man ought to form his ideas for himself and no one will know anything
_for good and all_ until he has earned the right.

Sometimes, for a moment, especially in dreams, but occasionally in his
waking hours, man _knows_. He has profound intuition; but nothing is
more fleeting than this sudden glimpse of eternity.

The best of us are blind men haunted by the memory of a flash of
light.

Which of us has not known, by personal experience, how a man can fly
away from himself? The sense of mystery, scarcely detected, has
escaped us, but who has not been conscious of it for a second?

Truth, like love, reveals itself for a second only, but we must
believe in it--forever.

These thoughts are properly presented here, for everything is in
everything. One man studies the hyssop, another the oak; Cuvier the
mastodon, and Lubbock the ant, but they all arrive at the same point,
a point which includes everything.

Do you know why the gipsies, Bohemians, gitanos, zincali, zingari,
zigeuners, zinganes, tziganes, romani, romichâl,--all different
appellations of the same wandering race,--arouse such intense interest
on the part of civilized peoples?

There are two reasons.

The first is, that the gipsy, being very primitive and wild, appears
among civilized beings as the image of themselves in the past. It is
as if they were our own ghosts.

When we see them among us, we amuse ourselves, in the shelter of our
established homes, by thinking regretfully that we no longer have
before us the broad plains so dear to the beasts we are; that we are
no longer in constant contact with the earth, the plants, the animals,
which are the _mothers_ that bore us, and whom we love for that
reason. They have remained what we were when we left them, and that
touches us.

The second reason is that they really discovered long ago something of
the meaning of life.

It is certain that they are magicians. They have seen the hidden
spring and have a vague remembrance of it; they have retained its dark
reflection in their glance.

The glance! they know its dormant and insinuating power. They know how
to subdue weak minds by a glance.

The least skilled in magic among them still believe that the "secret"
of things is hidden away somewhere under a stone, and in their travels
through every country on earth they often raise heavy boulders, whose
peculiar shapes seem to indicate that they may conceal the mystery.
They never find under the boulders anything but toads and snakes and
scorpions, but they are skilled at making powerful potions from the
blood and venom of the reptiles.

They know, also, the secret properties of plants, and that the hemlock
and belladonna vary in their effects when cut at certain times of the
year and at certain hours, according to the influence of the seasons
and the moon's rays.

The gipsies are skilled in the science of poisons. Men and
women--_roms_ and _juwas_--excel in the art of giving diseases to
cattle.

Their trades are only pretexts for calling at the houses they pass.
They are coppersmiths simply because the art of subjecting metals to
the action of fire was invented by the son of Cain, the progenitor of
all accursed mortals. And they are saddlers because they like to be
about horses, dear to all vagabonds.

The gipsies, who were originally worshippers of fire, and now have no
religion of their own, but always adopt that of the country they are
passing through, are to mankind what Lucifer is to the angels.

"We come from Egypt, if you please," Zinzara would sometimes say to
the people of her tribe. "Indeed, that is where we had our homes and
were a powerful race in the days of Moses. Then our ancestors were
magicians to the kings of Egypt, who overcame death; but our origin is
higher and farther away.

"We come from a country where the _Secret Power of the World_ was
discovered: a dragon guards the mystery on the summit of a lofty
mountain, in a cavern, out of reach of whatever floods may come.

"Our ancestor Çoudra learned from the high-priests the method of
compelling the dragon to obey him. He entered the cavern and conceived
the idea of universal knowledge, and resolved to avail himself of it
in the outside world, in order that he might become a king and mighty
among men--for why was he poor? Why does poverty exist, why death?

"He had no sooner conceived his project of justifiable rebellion than
the dragon sought to devour him. Our ancestor eluded him, and believed
that, by virtue of the secrets he had discovered, he would be
omnipotent on earth, but suddenly he found that he had almost
forgotten them all, as if by magic. He no longer remembered any of
them except those that do harm, those that produce disease, sorrow,
misery, and death--all the evils from which he would have liked to
free himself.

"And the high-priests cursed him and his sons. Manou spoke against
them thus: _They shall dwell outside of cities; they shall possess
none but broken vessels; they shall have nothing of their own, except
it be an ass or a dog. They shall wear the clothes they steal from
the dead; their plates shall be broken; their jewels shall be of iron.
They shall journey, without rest, from place to place. Every man who
is faithful to his duty shall hold himself aloof from them. They shall
have no dealings except with one another. And they shall marry only in
their own race._

"And the _Tchandalas_ were able to flee the country, but not the
sentence.

"And that is our present case.

"The crown of Çoudra is a broken ring--with sharp points, like a dog's
collar, and his sceptre is an iron staff, broken but formidable. For
why does want exist, and pain and death? God is wicked!"

With this tale, set to music, the gipsy queen sometimes lulled her son
to sleep.

And when, at the entrance to some château, she cast a long, malevolent
glance upon a young mother, who, upon catching sight of her, quickly
carried her little child within, such thoughts as these would run
through Zinzara's head: "The secrets that are known to our prophets,
our dukes and princes and kings, will cause all your cities, your
churches, and your thrones to tremble on their foundations, for why
does want exist, and pain and death? The hour will come--we await
it--when your nations will be scattered to the winds of wrath, unless
the wise men who invoked a curse on us become their masters--but you
are too far from their wisdom for that! You will be ours.

"Meanwhile, woe to those of you whom we find alone! We look fixedly
at them, and the spirit of evil does the rest."

And this is what little Livette saw when she approached the gipsy
camp.

The whole tribe was there. Their numerous wagons were of different
sizes, most of them being made in the shape of small oblong houses,
with little windows, very like the Noah's arks made for children in
Germany. The gipsies had arranged their wagons side by side, in a
line, each one opposite a house in the village. Thus the line of
wheeled houses formed with the houses of the village a winding street,
which, if prolonged, would have surrounded Saintes-Maries like a
girdle. Thus, while their sojourn lasted, the gipsies could cherish
the illusion that they were settled there, that they were inhabitants
of the village, one dwelling opposite the baker, another opposite the
wine-shop; but no one forgot that the gipsy houses were built upon
wheels that turn and can make the tour of the world.

"I pity the tree," says the gipsy, "it looks enviously at me as I
pass. It is jealous of my ass's feet."

Most of the wagons were patched with boards of many colors, picked up
or stolen here and there.

As a matter of fact, the wagons of the tribe were placed in the rear
of the village houses, so that the occupants of those houses, the
innkeeper or the baker, being busy in the front part of their
establishments, could naturally dispense with a too frequent
appearance in the gipsy street.

The nomads alone swarmed there undisturbed. They passed but little
time in the wagons, except when they were on the road or tired or
sick; their days were passed in the open air, squatting in the dust,
or on the steps of the little ladders which they lowered from the
doors of their wagons to the ground; or else they passed long hours
lying in the shade under the wagon--smoking their pipes and dreaming.

For the moment, some of the women here and there through the camp were
intent upon the same occupation: searching, in the bright morning
light, for vermin among the matted hair of their children, whom they
held tightly between their knees as in a vise.

From time to time, one of the little fellows would howl with pain,
when his mother inadvertently pulled or tore out one of his wiry,
coal-black hairs. Then he would wriggle and squirm to get away, but
the vise formed by the knees would nip him again and hold him tight,
and there would be a squealing as of sucking pigs loth to be bled.
Then blows would rain down and the shrieks redouble. Suddenly the
urchin that was howling most lustily would cease, and follow, with a
lively interest, the movements of a chicken from some neighboring
coop, or the antics of a hunting-dog that had wandered that way and
was well worth stealing.

The mothers went through with their matutinal task in an automatic
way that said as clearly as possible: "It is of no use to try to do
this, for the vermin breed and always will breed; but we must do
something. It is always a good thing to be busy; and then it makes an
excellent impression, here under the eye of civilized people. They see
that we are clean and neat."

"Buy my dog," said one of them with a leer to an open-mouthed
villager. "You will be well satisfied with his fidelity. He is
faithful, I tell you! so faithful that I have been able to sell him
four times.--He always comes back!"

All these women had a coppery, sun-burned, almost black skin, and hair
of a peculiar, dull charcoal-like black.--Some wore it twisted in a
heavy coil on top of the head. Several of the younger women let it
hang in long, snake-like locks over their breasts and backs. Their
eyes also were a curious shade of black, very bright, like black
velvet seen through glass. Life shone but dully in them, without
definite expression. Some mothers were attending to their duties with
a child on their back, wrapped in a sheet which they wore
bandoleer-fashion, with the ends knotted at the shoulder. The little
one slept with his head hanging, tossed and shaken by every movement.

Red, orange, and blue were the prevailing colors of their tattered
garments, but they were tarnished and faded and almost blotted out by
layers of dust and filth;--a smoke-begrimed Orient.

Many of the women had short pipes between their teeth. The men who
lay about here and there, with their elbows on the ground, were almost
all smoking placidly, their Sylvanus-like eyes fixed on vacancy. They
made a great show of pride under their rags. Some were asleep under
the rolling cabins.

The line of wagons along the outskirts of the village was still in
shadow, but at the head of the line, the first of the wagons, standing
a little apart, beyond the line of the houses, was in the sunlight.
This wagon, which was painted and kept up better than the others, was
Zinzara's, and a few of the villagers had collected in the sunshine in
front of it, attracted by the notes of the flute and tambourine.

Livette, as she approached the group, had no suspicion that, in the
wine-shop facing the wagon, behind the curtains of a window on the
first floor, Renaud had stationed himself, there, at his ease, to
watch the gipsy, who was playing the flute and dancing at the same
time, her feet and arms bare.

Zinzara held the flute--a double flute with two reeds diverging
slightly--with much grace, and blew upon it with full cheeks, raising
and lowering her fingers to suit the requirements of a weird air,
sometimes slow, sometimes furiously fast and jerky. Her head was
thrown back, so that she appeared more haughty and aggressive than
ever.

As she played upon her flute, Zinzara danced--a dance as mysterious
as herself. With her bare feet she simply beat time on the ground. Her
dance was naught but a play of attitudes, so to speak. She constantly
varied the rhythmical undulations of her flexible, vigorous body,
whose outline could be traced at every movement beneath the clinging
material of her dress. When the movement quickened, she stamped her
feet faster, still without moving from where she stood, as if in haste
to reach a lover's rendezvous, where languor would replace activity.

Seated a few steps from the dancer, a young gipsy, with a vague,
dreamy expression, was pounding with his fist, thinking of other
things the while, upon a large tambourine, to which amulets of divers
kinds were attached,--Egyptian beetles, mother-of-pearl shells,
finger-rings, and great ear-rings,--which danced up and down as he
played.

And the tambourine seemed to say to the double flute:

"Never fear: your mate is watching over you. I am here, father or
betrothed, I, your strong-voiced mate, and you can sing freely of your
joy and sorrow; no one shall disturb you; I am on the watch, and for
you my heart beats in my great, sonorous breast."

But to the gipsy's ear the music of the tambourine said something very
different; and with a smile upon her lips, blowing into her flute with
its diverging reeds, raising and lowering her slender fingers over the
holes, Zinzara, exerting a subtle influence over all about her,
dressed in soft rags that clung tightly to her form and marked the
outlines of her hips and of her breast in turn; displaying her tawny
calves beneath her skirts, which were lifted up and tucked into her
belt,--Zinzara seemed not to see the spectators.

Twenty or thirty people were looking at her, and still she seemed to
be dancing for her own amusement; but her witch's eye followed,
without seeming to do so, the slightest movement of Renaud's head, the
whole of which could be seen at times between the serge curtains with
red borders, behind the windows of the wine-shop, under the eaves of
the house across the way.

When she saw Livette approach, the dancer beat her feet upon the
ground more rapidly, as if annoyed, and the flute emitted a cry, a
shrill war-cry, like the sound made by tearing silk quickly.

Livette involuntarily shuddered, but she mingled with the group,
momentarily increasing in size, and looked on.

Zinzara made a sign, and uttered some strange, guttural words between
two loud notes--words that were, evidently, a precise command, for a
gipsy child, who had come to her side a moment before, glided under
the wagon, whence he emerged armed with a long white stick, with which
he motioned to the spectators to fall back a little. Then he stationed
himself in front of Zinzara, in the centre of the first row of
spectators, and, turning toward them, enjoined silence upon them by
placing his finger on his lips. The word was passed along, and the
bystanders ceased their conversation, realizing that _something_ was
about to happen.

The dance was at an end.--The tambourine ceased to beat time. The
flute alone sang on in Zinzara's hands, as her fingers moved slowly up
and down.--Now it gave forth a thin, clear note, like the prolongation
of the sound made by a drop of water falling in a fountain; it was a
sweet, insinuating appeal, as melancholy as the croaking of a frog at
night, on the shores of a pond, at the bottom of an echoing, rocky
valley.

And, with the end of his wand, the child pointed out to one of the
spectators something that came crawling out from under the wagon. It
was a tiny snake, with red and yellow spots, and it drew near,
evidently attracted by the notes of the flute. Another followed, and
soon there were several of them--five in all.

When they were in front of the flute-player, between her and the boy
with the wand, they raised their heads and waved them back and forth,
slowly at first, then more quickly, keeping time with the flute. The
serpents danced, and the mind of every spectator involuntarily
compared their dance with the woman's that he had seen a moment
before. There was the same undulating movement, the same evil charm,
and every one was conscious of an uncomfortable feeling at the sight.

Livette, surprised and strangely moved, thought that she was
dreaming. The spectacle before her was curiously, deplorably in accord
with the state of her heart. She did not understand its hidden,
intimate connection with her own destiny, but she felt its baleful
effects. Zinzara's glance, from time to time, swept over the girl's
face, but did not rest upon it. On the subject of her own influence,
Zinzara knew what she knew.

Soft, soft as spun silk, the notes of the flute arose, very soft and
prolonged, like threads extending from the instrument and winding
about the necks of the little snakes; and the little snakes followed
the notes of the flute, which drew them on and on. Zinzara walked
backward. The little snakes followed her as if they were held fast by
the notes of the flute as by silken threads. The gipsy stopped, and
the notes _grew shorter_, so to speak, like the threads one winds
about a bobbin. Then the snakes approached the sorceress, and as
Zinzara stooped slowly over them, and put down her hands, still
holding the flute, upon which she did not cease to play, the snakes
twined themselves about her bare arms. Thence one of them climbed up
and wound about her neck, letting his little head, with its wide open
mouth and quivering tongue, hang down upon her swelling breast. And
when she stood erect again, two others were seen at her ankles, above
the rings she wore on her legs. Then she laid aside her flute and
began to laugh. Her laugh disclosed her regular, white teeth.

"Now," said she, "if any one will give me his hand, I will tell his
fortune!"

But no hand was put forward to meet hers because of the little snakes.

Zinzara laughed aloud, and her laugh, in very truth, recalled certain
notes of her double flute.

At that moment, Livette started to walk away.

"Come, you!" said the gipsy quickly,--"you refused to listen to me
once, but to-day you must be very anxious to find out where your lover
is, my beauty! Give me your hand without fear, if you are worthy to
become the wife of a brave horseman."

Livette blushed vividly. Her two young friends arrived just then and
heard what was said. "Don't you do it!" said one of them in an
undertone, pulling Livette's skirt from behind; but, Livette, annoyed
by the gipsy's expression, in which she fancied that she could detect
a touch of mockery, put out her hand, not without a mental prayer for
protection to the sainted Marys. The gipsy took the proffered hand in
her own. The snakes put out their forked tongues. Livette was somewhat
pale.

They were both very small, the fortune-teller's hand and the maiden's.

Renaud looked on from above with all his eyes, greatly surprised and a
little disturbed in mind.

The gipsy held Livette's hand in her own a moment, exulting to feel
the palpitations of the bird she was fascinating. She had hoped to
intimidate Livette, and the courage the girl displayed annoyed her.

"Your future husband isn't far away, my beauty," said she, "but he is
not here on your account, never fear! On whose, then? That is for you
to guess!"

Livette, already somewhat pale, became as white as a ghost.

"That alone, I fancy, is of interest to you, my pretty sweetheart!
Then I'll say no more to you except this: Beware; the serpent on my
left wrist just whispered something to me. Look well to your love!"

A shudder ran through the spectators like a ripple over the surface of
a swamp. One of the snakes was, in fact, hissing gently.

The gipsy released Livette's hand; as the girl turned to go away, she
came face to face with Rampal. He had been wandering about the village
since early morning, and had just joined the group, unseen by any one,
even by Renaud.

Livette recoiled instinctively and in such a marked way that Rampal
might well have taken it for an affront. Unfortunately, having left
the front row, she was hemmed in by the crowd on all sides of her.

"Oho! young lady," said Rampal, "so we don't recognize our friends!"

"Good-day, good-day, Rampal," replied Livette, repeating the
salutation as the custom is in the province; "but let me pass! Make
room for me, I say!"

"_Sur le pont d'Avignon_," sang the gipsy, with a laugh, "_tout le
monde paye passage!_"[2]

Renaud, still behind his window, had at last recognized Rampal. Fuming
with rage, but naturally wary, he considered whether he should rush
down at once and attack him or wait until Livette had gone.

Rampal did not always need a pretext to kiss a pretty girl,--but here
was one ready-made for him!

"Do you hear, demoiselle?" said he. "You must pay the tollman of your
own accord, or else he will pay himself!"

He threw both arms about the poor child's waist. She bent back,
holding her body and her head as far away from him as possible, but
the rascal, hot of breath, holding her firmly and forcing her a little
closer, kissed her twice full upon the lips.

A fierce oath was uttered behind them in the air. Everybody turned,
and, looking up, discovered Renaud shaking the old-fashioned window,
which was reluctant to be opened. Two more wrenches and the window
yielded, flew suddenly open with a great noise of breaking glass, and
Renaud, standing on the sill, leaped to the ground.

"Ah! the beggar! the beggar! where is the vile cur?"

But Rampal had already leaped upon his horse that was hitched near by
to the bars of a low window, and was off at a gallop.

He rode as if he were riding a race, half-standing in his stirrups,
his body bent forward, and plying incessantly and very rapidly a thong
that was made fast to his wrist, and that drove his horse wild by the
way it whistled about his ears.

"Coward! coward!" one of the young men present could not refrain from
shouting after him.

"Coward? oh! no!" said Renaud--"simply a thief! for if he weren't
riding a horse he never intends to return, the fellow wouldn't run
away--I know him!"

He turned to poor, frightened Livette.

"Never fear, demoiselle," said he, "he shall not carry our horse to
paradise with him."

Was it Renaud's purpose, in saying this, to make the gipsy think that
he was bent upon taking vengeance for the theft of his horse rather
than for the insult put upon his fiancée? Perhaps so; but the devil is
so cunning that Renaud himself had no idea that he was capable of such
craft.

As to the gipsy, she said to herself that Renaud, by jumping out of
the window, instead of coming quietly down the stairs, had compromised
his prospects of revenge for the satisfaction of exhibiting his
gipsy-like agility to her. He did, in truth, jump like a wild cat, and
rebound as if he were equipped with elastic paws! He was as agile as a
true _zingaro_! He was as handsome and bold as a highwayman! They are
gipsies, to all intents, these wandering guardians of mares and
heifers!

Renaud, who had disappeared long enough to buckle his horse's girth,
rode by in a few moments upon Prince; the witnesses of the scene just
enacted were still discussing it.

"Catch him! catch him! eat him, King!" cried twenty young men's voices
in chorus.

"With the King and the Prince arrayed against him, Rampal is a dead
man," some one remarked, with a laugh.

Renaud was already at a distance. He had not looked at the gipsy, but
he felt that her eyes were upon him, and he felt now that they were
following him from afar; and the feeling caused a pleasurable thrill,
of which he was conscious, and for which he reproved himself vaguely
on Livette's account, but without seeking to repress it. Yes, as he
galloped along in his wrath, he galloped in a particular way in order
that his wrath might show to good advantage, so that he might appear a
handsome and graceful horseman, as he was in fact. He was conscious of
every movement that he made--he fancied that he could see himself, and
was desirous to make a good appearance, he, the King!

The peacock, in the mating season, has more gorgeous plumage, and
makes the greatest possible display of it. The nightingale and the
redbreast have sweeter voices. All alike take pleasure in so arraying
themselves as to give pleasure.

"Where are you going, Livette?" her two friends asked her.

"I am going to see monsieur le curé. I must have a talk with him, poor
me! for it was a great sin to listen to that sorceress, you know!"



XIV

JOUSTING


Both Renaud and Rampal had spears.

As he rode by the Neuf farm, half a league from Saintes-Maries,
Rampal, who owned nothing in the world but his saddle, and had no
spear, being at that time simply a drover out of a job, had spied one
leaning against a fig-tree, and had appropriated it without
dismounting, had "borrowed it without a word," thinking that he should
probably need it to defend himself.

Now he was galloping across the fields, leaning forward on his horse's
neck, with his thong in his boot and the spear resting in the stirrup.

Renaud had mistaken the road in his hot pursuit. Perhaps the gipsy was
the cause of it, for, in spite of himself, in order to remain within
her range of vision, Renaud had ridden straight toward the Vaccarès,
while Rampal had just taken the road to Arles, avoiding stratagem in
order to mislead his pursuer more effectually, for he said to himself
that Renaud would surely argue that he had made for the middle of the
island to take refuge in some deserted _jass_.

Renaud divined Rampal's plan.

"He will keep to the road," he suddenly thought, and feeling certain
that he was right, he turned to the left and rode due west. Rampal,
having the start of him by a full league, drew rein in the vicinity of
Grandes-Cabanes, and having planted his spear-head in the ground,
rested both hands upon it, then placed his feet, one after the other,
on the hind-quarters of his horse, and stood there for some moments,
scanning the plain behind him. Between two clumps of tamarisks he
caught a glimpse of a horseman, like a flash of light, or like a
rabbit scuttling between two wild thyme bushes--Renaud, beyond
question! Rampal saw that Renaud, if it were he, was about to take to
the road, and he himself thereupon left it and rode in the opposite
direction on a line parallel to that his enemy was following in the
distance. When Renaud reached the road and turned into it, Rampal had
the Vaccarès in front of him, and there he turned to the left and
followed the shore. His plan was to cross the main stream of the
Rhône, and reach the Conscript's Hut, in the middle of the _gargate_,
the spot where he was confident of finding safe shelter in times of
serious danger. Unluckily for him, he had been seen--when he was
standing on his horse watching his man--by a fisherman who was
crouching on the edge of the canal, fishing for eels with a reed and
a short line, at the end of which was a bunch of worms, strung and
twisted together.

"Have you seen Rampal, friend?" said Renaud, stopping his horse short
as soon as he saw the fisherman, who was just about changing his
place.

"Ah! King, are you the man who is looking for him?" said the
fisherman, an old man. "If he has kept to the road he took to get away
from you,--for I saw he was watching some one behind him,--he ought to
be on the shore of the Vaccarès by this time, and from there, if he
doesn't go back to Saintes-Maries, he will surely go up toward
Notre-Dame-d'Amour. You have a good horse, and you can catch him
between the Vaccarès and the Grand' Mar."

Renaud darted away as if he had wings.

After an hour and a half of furious riding,--he was wise enough,
however, to change his gait several times,-he drew rein, a little
discouraged; then, after a brief halt and a draught of brandy from the
flask that never left his holsters, he resumed his headlong race--but
not until he had thoughtfully allowed his horse to drink a swallow of
water from the canal.

When he was between the Grand' Mar swamp and the Vaccarès, he found
his own drove taking their midday rest there, under the guidance of
Bernard, his young assistant.

Horses and bulls were lying motionless on the shore of the Vaccarès,
in the twofold glare from sky and water, for it was well-nigh noon,
and the light was dazzling.

Bernard was resting likewise, lying on his back with his head on the
saddle, not far from his horse, which was fettered near by, learning
to amble.

In front of Renaud lay the pearl-gray Vaccarès, gleaming like a huge
table of polished steel, in the centre of which a veritable white
islet of sea-mews were sleeping, motionless as statues.

Behind him stretched an ashen-gray plain, which could be seen only in
spots--where the salt emerged in efflorescent crystals--glistening
through a vast violet net-work of flowering _saladelles_; for the
_saladelles_ spread out in broad, graceful tufts, with many
ramifications, but without foliage, dotted with a multitude of lilac
blossoms, between which the ground can be seen. And farther away the
fields of glasswort began, with their plump, juicy leaves; they are a
beautiful rich green when they are young, but the salt air soon turns
them blood-red, so that the oldest and those nearest the sea are the
darkest.

Here and there the stunted tamarisk, with its gnarled trunk, dotted
the plain, its sparse foliage tinged with pink by the blossoms hanging
in tiny clusters, which, tiny though they be, are a heavy burden for
its flexible branches.

And in the dry, seamy bottoms were great patches of _siagnes_,
_triangles_, _apaïuns_ of every kind, _canéous_ or dwarf reeds used
in making roofs and matting, thorn-broom and all sorts of aquatic
plants, bright green, and straight as fields of grain; their angular
battalions, harvested in summer, go down before the scythe in broad
half-circles. Above these patches of verdure, which bend and rustle
with the faintest breath of air, hovered dragon-flies with enormous
heads,--swallow-like insects, voracious devourers of gnats. They flew
about with the swallows over the waters where the mosquito is born,
making a metallic sound among the reeds when their wings of
transparent, black-veined mica came in contact with them.

Renaud gazed at these familiar things and forgot himself in them. For
a second he fancied that he was watching his drove there, and that he
had nothing else to do but remain with his beasts, absorbed, as they
were, in calm, unreasoning contemplation of the desert that surrounded
him. He ceased to love, to hate, to desire, and to pursue.

The shadow of wings passed him by. He raised his eyes and saw, above
his head, two red flamingoes.

"They built their nest here this year," he thought.

But Prince, the good horse, had recognized his favorite mares, and,
stretching out his neck, opening his nostrils wide to inhale the fresh
breeze of the swamp and the plain, raising his lips and displaying his
teeth, he gave a neigh that made all the mares spring to their feet at
a single bound, the bulls raise their heads, and Bernard himself jump
up from the ground, spear in hand.

Renaud, pressing his knees together and pulling his horse back, held
him in hand, although he trembled under him and pranced up and down in
the soft sand.

At the same time, a sudden gust of the _mistral_ swept across the
plain and broke the mirror-like surface of the Vaccarès into little
waves.

"If it is Rampal you are looking for," said Bernard, "he isn't far
away, you may be sure. When he saw me here, all of a sudden--just a
moment ago--he rode off that way. And as he went out of my sight very
soon, I believe he has gone into some cabin. You had better look
around the Méjeane tower."

Renaud was off again.

Suddenly his eyes fell upon a low cabin with its rush-covered roof,
shaped like a pyramid, or like a stack of straw, and surmounted, as
they all are, by its wooden cross, bending back as if the _mistral_
were gradually blowing it over.

The thought came to him: "Rampal is there! His horse must be tired. He
retraced his steps a short distance without Bernard's seeing him, and
went into hiding there--hoping that I should be thrown off the scent
and would ride by. Yes, he is surely there!"

Renaud turned about, and rode straight toward the cabin, keeping a
sharp lookout; whereupon Rampal, who was really hidden there,
watching his pursuer through the holes in the wall, rushed out,
frightening an owl that flew away in dismay, and leaped upon his horse
which was browsing in hobbles near by, but out of sight, at the bottom
of a ditch.

The _mistral_, which comes like a cannon-ball when it makes up its
mind to blow at that time of day, suddenly began to roar. Renaud had
put his head down to meet the squall, so that he did not perceive this
manoeuvre of the enemy.

So it was that Rampal seemed suddenly to come up out of the ground,
not twenty feet from Renaud, who was not taken by surprise, however,
but rushed at him, brandishing his spear, for all the world like one
of the knights of the time of Saint Louis, of whom our legends tell.
(Aigues-Mortes was then in its prime.)

But Camargue is, as every one knows, the mother of the _mistral_--the
vast sunny plain, with Crau, which, after sending the air up by dint
of overheating it, is compelled to summon other air in order to
breathe at all. And thereupon, down the Rhône valley, at the summons
of the desert, comes a torrent of fresh air, which is the companion of
the river, and is called the _mistral_. It roared through Renaud's
open vest as in the belly of a sail, and, taking Prince sidewise, kept
him back a little. It was no easy matter to leap the ditch. That gave
the advantage to Rampal, who was now trotting freely along, face to
the wind.

The ditch was now between the two men, and Rampal's only purpose in
trotting along the edge of it was to limber up his horse's legs.
Renaud, abandoning the idea of crossing the ditch for the moment,
decided to follow along on his side. The two horsemen rode thus for a
few moments. Rampal had prudently protected his face from the
_mistral_ with a red silk handkerchief, the ends of which flapped
about his neck.

Suddenly, taking advantage of a spot where the banks came somewhat
nearer together, Renaud lifted his horse and landed on the other side
of the ditch at the very instant that Rampal, having executed the same
manoeuvre in the opposite direction, landed on the side Renaud had
left.

Renaud did not find a favorable spot for crossing at once, and Rampal
gained upon him.

Having at last crossed the obstacle once more, Renaud pursued Rampal
at full speed, and so rapidly that, when Rampal turned to judge the
distance between them, he saw Renaud hardly fifty paces behind him.

He had just time to turn about, and waited for his foe, with lance in
rest, leaning forward in his saddle, his feet planted firmly in the
broad stirrups.

Renaud, unluckily, was charging against the _mistral_. A sort of hail,
consisting of sand and of the little snails that cling in myriads to
the leaves of the _enganes_, beat into his face and angered him.

Five hundred feet away, Bernard was looking on--not saying a word,
for fear of Rampal, but praying fervently for Renaud, and he fancied
that he was watching two champions standing on the long ladders in the
prows of the jousting boats, with their lances held firmly under their
right arms. Rampal's spear, being suddenly lowered too far by a false
step of his horse, pricked the heel of Renaud's boot and grazed
Prince's flank, whereupon he jumped violently aside, as if he were
avoiding the horns of a heifer.

Renaud's spear tore the sleeve of his enemy's blue shirt and carried
away the piece.

The horsemen met and passed each other.

Rampal was the first to turn, and rode after Renaud, ready to strike
him from behind, while he was struggling to stop Prince, who had
acquired too much momentum; and Prince, hearing the other horse's
hurried step, and feeling his hot breath behind him, furious at being
held back, fearing that he would be overtaken, turned about so quickly
and unexpectedly in his wrath, that Rampal took fright and turned
again, but involuntarily.

Renaud, finding that his pursuer had once more become a fugitive, gave
Prince a free rein.

The stallion was off like the wind.

The horsemen sped along, pushed on by the gusts, the wind being now
behind them.

The mares and heifers, the whole drove, in fact, stood with their
heads in the air, staring eyes, and nostrils distended, watching the
two men come down toward them, bending over their horses' necks,
reins flying, as if pursued by the tempest along the shores of the
pond, whose waters were dancing and rippling in the wind.

Here and there the little tamarisks, bent almost double, seemed
likewise to be fleeing from the storm. There were no more gnats or
dragon-flies in the air. Above the Vaccarès the spray was flying. The
_mistral_ swept everything clean.

Two minutes later, powerless to control their enervated beasts,
excited as they were by the struggle and the wind, the two adversaries
rode at full speed through the drove.

Thereupon, inflamed by the sight of their two stallions racing madly
by, alarmed at the sight of the waving spears, intoxicated by the wild
wind that found a way into their bodies through their fiery nostrils,
the mares neighed and reared and started off together on the gallop.
The heifers followed. Hundreds of hoofs and cloven feet beat the
ground with a noise like the roaring of a tempest, and the whole
drove, lashed by the _mistral_, which howled behind them, biting them
and urging them forward, rolled across the plain like a second Rhône.
And while Bernard was saddling his horse in hot haste to overtake
them, the two enemies galloped in the midst of the hurricane as if
borne on by the stamping of eighty beasts, whose hoofs raised clouds
of sand and showers of spray and mud in the wind that travelled faster
than they!

At the head of this whirlwind, and still in the midst of it, Renaud
succeeded in overtaking Rampal. When he was near enough to touch him,
he selected the precise moment when his horse was raising his left
hind foot, to strike him on the right hind-quarter. The right leg,
just as it was about to strike the ground, bent double under the blow
of a spear directed by a man riding at a gallop, and Rampal and his
horse rolled over among the countless galloping hoofs that shook the
earth.

Bulls and horses leaped over the two bodies lying there, man and
beast, and when the drove, tired and subdued, came to a stop half a
league farther on, Renaud, still riding Prince, was holding by the
bridle his recaptured horse, bleeding only in the flank and at the
nose.

Standing beside him, with rage in his heart, stained with mud and
dust, his face bleeding and the skin torn from the palms of the hands,
Rampal, red as fire, was occupied in rearranging his breeches and
fastening his belt.

"Wait till next time, Renaud! After this you would expect a man to
seek revenge, eh?"

But his shrill voice was drowned in the howling of the _mistral_.

"Give me back my saddle!" he shouted in a louder tone.

The drover's saddle is his whole fortune. He cherishes it, loves it,
takes pride in it.

"Your saddle?" rejoined Renaud suspiciously. "Come with me and get
it! Bernard will give it to you."

He shrugged his shoulders, and without another word rode after the
drove, leading back to it the emaciated horse which Rampal had sadly
misused.

He was extremely glad that Blanchet had had no part in this duel. He
recognized Blanchet from afar in among the mares, but sleeker and
better cared for than the others. A true lady's horse, staunch as he
was!--And now he would be able to return him to his mistress, as he
had his former horse, in addition to Prince. And his nostrils dilated
with the pride of victory. He inhaled long draughts of the bracing
salt air.

He was thinking of two women--yes, of two, not one only!--who would
say of him when they heard what had taken place: "That is a man!" And
Renaud's noble horse shared his master's pride, as he capered about,
in the liberty accorded him to choose his own pace, with the proud
bearing of a stallion that had won the race in the sight of his whole
drove.



XV

MONSIEUR LE CURÉ'S ARCHÆOLOGY


The curé of Saintes-Maries was a man of about sixty, well preserved,
very tall and stout, with bright eyes whose light he quenched with
spectacles, and energetic gestures which he purposely restrained.

The parsonage was near the church, the doorway shaded by a number of
elms. The house, in accordance with the prevailing custom of the
province, was whitewashed once a year, outside and in, like the houses
of the Arabs.

The houses in Saintes-Maries are low. The streets are narrow, and wind
about to escape the sun. The shadows under the awnings of the little
shops have a bluish cast. In front of the doors, which open on the
street, hang transparent curtains of common linen, in some cases of
very fine net-work, to stop the flies and admit the light after it has
passed through the sieve, so to speak. And, behind them, the maidens
of Saintes-Maries are confined like birdlings in a cage, or like very
dangerous little wild beasts. Are not all maidens to be looked upon
with more or less suspicion?

The maidens of Saintes-Maries wear the Arles head-dress and the
neckerchief, with fold upon fold held in place by hundreds of pins, by
as many pins as a rose-bush has thorns; and where the thick folds of
the handkerchief open, in the depths of the _chapelle_, you can see
the little golden cross gleaming upon the firm young flesh rising and
falling with the maidenly sigh. The apron worn over the ample skirt
seems like a skirt itself, it is so broad and full, and slender feet
peep out from beneath it, as agile as the Camargue partridge's red
claws, that love to scamper swiftly over the fields to escape the
hunter, knowing that Camargue is broad and space is plentiful.

Many are the pale faces at Saintes, for, whatever they may say, the
marshes still breed fever, and this country, to which people come to
be miraculously cured, is, generally speaking, a country of disease;
but pallor goes well with the wavy black hair, worn in broad puffs on
the temples and falling upon the neck in two heavy masses which are
turned up to meet the _chignon_. To help them to forget what is
depressing in their lives, they resort, here as elsewhere, to
coquetry--and the rest!--And then they are accustomed to the fever,
which gives birth to dreams and visions; they tame it, as it were; it
is not cruel to the people it knows, and does not lead them to the
cemetery until they are old and gray.

The cemetery is a few steps from the village, a few steps from the
sea. It lies at the foot of the sand-dunes, surrounded by a low wall.
The dead and gone villagers of Saintes-Maries lie sleeping there
between the sea and the desert of Camargue: many fishermen who lived
in their flat-bottomed boats; many herdsmen who lived on horseback in
the plain.

All of them alike find there, in death, the things amid which their
lives have been passed: the salt sand, filled with tiny shells, the
_enganes_ that grow in spite of everything, reddened by the salt-laden
winds, and heavy with soda,--and the thin shadow of the pink-plumed
tamarisk. There they hear the neighing of the wild mares, the shouts
of the herdsmen contending on the race-course on fête-days, or
stirring up the black bulls in the arena under the walls of the
church. They hear the sails flapping, and the _han_ of the bare-legged
fishermen pushing their flat-bottomed boats or barges into the water;
and night and day, the pounding of the sea in its efforts to push back
the island of Camargue, while the Rhône, on the other hand, is
constantly pushing it into the sea, and adding to its bulk with mud
and stones brought down from its head-waters. The sea smites the
island as if it would have none of it, but all in vain,--it, too, can
but augment its size with the sand it casts up.

And the sand from the sea makes a broad hem of dunes along the shores
of Camargue.

No one can fail to see that the dunes, those shifting, tomb-like
hills of sand, must have served as models for the massive pyramids,
the tombs of kings, in the Egyptian desert.

At the feet of the little pyramids of sand sleep the dead of Camargue.

But whither has the thought of death led us? Why do we tarry here,
while Livette is timidly lifting the knocker at monsieur le curé's
door?

The blow echoed within the house, in the empty hall. Livette was much
perturbed. What was she to say? Where should she begin? The beginning
is always the most difficult part. She would like to run away now, but
it is too late. She hears steps inside. Marion, the old servant, opens
the door.

Marion has a practised eye. When any one knocks at Monsieur le curé's
door, she knows, simply by examining his face, what he wants, and
frames her answers accordingly, on her own responsibility; for
Monsieur le curé is subject to rheumatism: he suffers from fever, too,
and Marion nurses Monsieur le curé! If he listened to Marion, he would
nurse himself so carefully that all the sick people would have to die
unshriven, without extreme unction, for Marion would always have a
good reason to give to prevent him from going out by day or night,
when the _mistral_ was blowing or the wind was from the east, summer
or winter, rain or shine.

But Monsieur le curé would smile and do just what he chose. He was a
good priest. He never failed in his duty. He loved his parishioners.
He assisted them on all occasions with his purse and his advice. He
was beloved by them all.

He loved his parishioners, his commune, and his curious church, which
was once a fortress; he was familiar with the shape of its every
stone. He loved it both as priest and as archaeologist, for Monsieur
le curé is a scholar, and his church is, in very truth, one of the
most interesting monuments in France, with its abnormally thick, high,
and threatening walls, crowned with jutting galleries and surmounted
by crenelated battlements, with an unobstructed view of sea and land
in all directions, and overlooked by four turrets, and a tower in the
centre,--the highest of all,--from whose belfry the alarum bell, in
the old days, often aroused the country-side, repeating in its
shrillest tones: "Here come the heathens, good people of
Saintes-Maries! Attention! Come and shut yourselves up here! Make
ready your arrows and the boiling oil and pitch!"--Or else: "Hasten to
the shore, good people of Saintes-Maries! A French vessel is sinking!"

And to this day it seems still to say, to all, far and near: "I see
you! I see you!"

One could go on forever describing the church of Saintes-Maries, and
relating anecdotes concerning it.

Behind the battlements at the top, and enclosing the roof of flat
stones, runs a narrow pathway, where the archers and patrols in the
old days used to make their rounds, surrounded by countless
sea-swallows. Along the ridge-pole of the roof, of overlapping broad
flat stones, between which thick tufts of _nasques_ are growing, rises
a high carved comb, in ogive-like curves, surmounted by fleurs-de-lis.

All this is beautiful and grand, but there is a little thing of which
the villagers are as proud as of the bell-tower and the turrets, and
that is a marble tablet, about five courses in length by three in
height, on which two lions are represented. One is protecting its
whelp; the other seems to be protecting a little child, as if it were
its own offspring. It seems that this tablet was carved by a Greek
workman long, long ago.

The marble is set into the southern wall of the church, beside the
small door.

You enter. The ogive arch of the nave compels you to raise your eyes
to a great height. And as you enter by the main door, your attention
is attracted by a romanesque arch, directly in front of you, at the
far end of the church, at least five metres below the ogive arch of
the nave; in the centre of this arch are the blessed reliquaries,
resting upon the sill of an opening like a window, flanked by two
columns. From that position they are lowered once in every year at the
ends of two ropes.

The choir is some few feet higher than the flagging of the church. It
is reached by two symmetrical staircases, between which is the grated
door leading down into Sara's crypt. That door you can see, directly
in front of you, at the end of the passage through the centre of the
church, between the rows of chairs. One would say that it was the
air-hole of a dungeon.

Down below, in the damp crypt, with its low arched roof and naked
walls,--a veritable dungeon,--upon a mutilated marble altar, is the
little glass shrine containing the relics of Saint Sara, the patron
saint of the gipsies. There, amid the smoke of their candles, in an
atmosphere made foul by human exhalations, you can see them once a
year, huddled together in a dense crowd, mumbling their questionable
prayers.

In the days of the Saracen invasions this crypt served as a storehouse
for supplies, when all the inhabitants of the little village were
forced to take refuge in the fortress-church.

Aigues-Mortes has her walls and her Constance Tower, massive as Babel;
Nîmes has her Arena and her Fountain--and the Pont du Gard, superb in
its beauty, is also hers; Avignon her bridges, her ramparts, and her
clocks with figures of armed men to strike the hours; Tarascon her
Château, mirrored in the Rhône; Baux the fantastic ruins of her
houses, hollowed, like the cells of a bee-hive, out of the solid rock
of the hill-side; Montmajour has her tombs of little children, also
dug, side by side, in the solid rock, and to-day filled with earth and
flowers, like the troughs at which doves drink; Orange has her theatre
and her triumphal arch; Arles has her theatre with the two pillars
still upright in the centre; she has Saint-Trophime, too, with its
sculptured façade and its _Allée des Alyscamps_, bordered with
Christian sarcophagi and lofty poplars. But Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
has her church, which Monsieur le curé would not give for all the
treasures of the other towns!

Marion saw plainly that Livette was depressed; Marion was touched when
Livette said: "I must see Monsieur le curé," and as her master would
not be seriously discommoded, there being no occasion for him to leave
the house, Marion ushered Livette into the parlor.

It was a whitewashed room, but the curé had transformed it into a
veritable museum, and the walls were completely hidden behind wooden
cabinets, made by himself, and all filled with his collections.

There were pieces of antique pottery and of rainbow-hued antique
glass. There were old medals.

One of the latter attracted Livette's attention. It represented a bull
in the act of falling; one of his fore-legs had given way. A man, his
conqueror, had seized him by the horns. That Grecian medal was struck
centuries upon centuries ago. A label explained it to Livette, who
thought at first that it was Renaud. Life is all repetition.

There were collections of plants and boxes filled with shells, and
also many stuffed birds, all the varieties found in Camargue. For more
than thirty years, fishermen and hunters had presented Monsieur le
curé with curious objects and animals. Here was an otter from the
Rhône, there a beaver, with his trowel-shaped tail and hooked teeth.
It is a question of serious importance whether the beavers do not
injure the dikes of the Rhône. The important point, you see, is that
the water from the swamps should empty into the river or the sea
through the canals, which run in all directions. Therefore, the dikes
must hold firm and not let the Rhône overflow the swamps. And the
beavers, they say, destroy the dikes. They gnaw into them when the
great freshets come, to avoid the drift, and take refuge inside; and
when the water comes in after them, they make a vertical hole through
which to escape, and there is your dike, undermined, eaten into by the
water! That is a bad state of affairs.

Livette raised her eyes. A reptile, with his mouth open, was hanging
from the ceiling; he was very fat, and well he might be! he was a
little crocodile, the last one killed in Camargue, a very long while
ago!

In every nook left free by the natural curiosities some pious image
was to be seen. Here the two Maries in their boat. There the Holy
Women wrapping the Christ in his shroud. In another place, Magdalen at
La Baume, kneeling in front of the death's-head. But Livette saw no
image of Saint Sara.

Livette sat down and waited. Monsieur le curé did not come. The fact
was, that Monsieur le curé, who had already written two monographs,
one entitled _La Cure de Boismaux_, and the other _La Villa de la
Mar_, was at that moment at work upon a third: _Concordance of the
Legends of the Blessed Maries_, with this sub-title: _Concerning the
strange and regrettable confusion that seems to exist between Saint
Sara and Marie the Egyptian._

_La Cure de Boismaux_ also had a sub-title: _Monograph concerning the
domains of the Château d'Avignon in Camargue._ Monsieur le curé
recalled the fact that the domains of the Château d'Avignon formerly
constituted a separate commune. That commune naturally had a curé, and
in those days the proprietor of the Château d'Avignon was General
Miollis, brother of the Bishop of Digne mentioned by Monsieur Victor
Hugo in _Les Misérables_ under the name of Myriel.

In a special chapter, Monsieur le curé sought, to no purpose, to find
a reason, telluric or otherwise, for the fact that the estates of the
Château d'Avignon are particularly subject to invasion by locusts,
which sometimes have to be fought in Camargue, as in Africa, by
regiments.

As to the _Concordance_, that was a very important and very necessary
work. It was based, in great measure, upon the authority of the _Black
Book_. That Latin work, preserved in the archives of Saintes-Maries,
was written, in 1521, by Vincent Philippon, who signed himself: 2000
Philippon![3] (Jesus himself did not disdain the pun.) There is a
French translation of the _Black Book_. It was published in 1682, and
begins thus:

    "Au nom de Dieu mon oeuvre comancée
    Par Jésus-Christ soit toujours advancée.
    Le Saint-Esprit conduise sagement
    Ma main, ma plume, et mon entendement."[4]

Here follows the true version of the story of the patron saints of
Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer.

Marie Jacobé, mother of Saint James the Less, Marie Salomé, mother of
Saint James the Greater and of Saint John the Evangelist, came not
alone to the shores of Camargue. The boat without sail or oars
contained also their servants Marcella and Sara, Lazarus and all his
family, and several of the Christ's disciples.

Monsieur le curé would prove, with documents to sustain him, that Mary
Magdalen was not in the boat. She came to Provence by some other
means, no one can say by what miracle.

With the exception of the two Maries and Sara, all the passengers upon
the miraculous craft dispersed in different directions, preaching and
making converts.

The holy women did not leave Camargue, the island in the Rhône,
divided at that time into a great number of small islands by the
ponds--a veritable archipelago, called _Sticados_ and inhabited by
heathens. In those days, all these small islands, formed by the
swamps, were covered with forests and filled with wild beasts. And
this delta of the Rhône was infested with crocodiles.

Now, a long, long time after the death of the holy women, a hunter,
followed by his dogs, was passing over the spot where they lay buried
in unknown graves; he fell in with a hermit there, beside a spring.

"My lord," said the hermit, "I had a revelation in a dream last night.
In the sand beside this spring repose the bodies of three sainted
women!"

The hunter was a Comte de Provence. His palace was at Arles, and the
curé had every reason to believe that he was Guillaume I., son of
Boson I., famous for his liberality to the church.

It was in 981. This Guillaume had overcome the Saracens, and Conrad
I., King of Bourgogne, his suzerain, loved and respected him.

The prince, having listened to the hermit's tale, rode away musing
deeply; not long after, he returned and caused a church in the form of
a citadel to be built at that point of the coast, in the very centre
of a spacious enclosure surrounded by moats.

Then he made known throughout Provence that special privileges would
be accorded to all those who should build houses between the church
and the moat.

Thus was founded the Villa-de-la-Mar--which is in fact a town
(_ville_), although it is too often spoken of as a village, under its
other name of Saintes-Maries.

The Comtes de Provence have always granted special privileges to the
town.

Under Queen Jeanne, a guard was stationed all the time at the top of
the church-tower to watch the ships and make signals. Sentinels were
obliged to call to one another and answer every hour during the night.
The people of Saintes-Maries were also exempted by the queen from
payment of tolls and the tax upon salt.

Monsieur le curé explains all these things in his book, which is very
interesting. He also describes therein, "as in duty bound," the
discovery of the sacred bones. In 1448, King René, being then at Aix,
his capital, heard a preacher declare that Saintes Marie-Jacobé and
Salomé were certainly buried beneath the church of Villa-de-la-Mar.

René at once consulted his confessor, Père Adhémar, and sent a
messenger to the Pope, asking that he be authorized to make search
underground in the church. The authorization was given in the month of
June in the same year. The Archbishop of Aix, Robert Damiani, presided
at the search.

They found the spring; near the spring was an earthen altar; at the
foot of the altar a marble tablet with this inscription, upon which
the good curé descants at great length:

          D.       M.
    IOV. M. L. CORN. BALBUS
        P. ANATILIORUM
          AD RHODANI
      OSTIA SACR. ARAM
          V. S. L. M.

Lastly, they found the bones of the saints, perfectly recognizable,
and, in addition, a head sealed up in a leaden box, which, according
to the curé, was the head of Saint James the Less, brought from
Jerusalem by Marie-Jacobé, his mother.

The bones, having been devoutly taken from their resting-place, were
with great ceremony bestowed in shrines of cypress wood. The king was
present with his court. The papal legate was also there, and an
archbishop, ten or twelve bishops, a great number of ecclesiastical
dignitaries, professors, and learned doctors. The chancellor of the
University of Avignon, too, and--so the reports of the proceedings set
forth--three prothonotaries of the Holy See and three notaries public.

And so nothing is more firmly established than the authenticity of the
relics of the saints.

But various apocryphal legends had appeared to throw doubt upon the
truth, and Monsieur le curé was at work upon the following passage
while Livette, with increasing uneasiness, was awaiting him in the
parlor.

"Among the popular fallacies," wrote the curé, "which destroy pure
tradition, we must stigmatize as one of the most deplorable, I may say
one of the most pernicious, that one which insists that among the
passengers of the miraculous craft was a third Saint Marie, surnamed
the Egyptian. It is downright heresy! How could it have taken root,
and how far does it extend?"

Monsieur le curé proposed to retouch that last phrase forthwith, and
for a very good reason.

"Without doubt," he continued, "the Egyptians, or Bohemians, or
gipsies, by manifesting, from remote times, particular veneration for
Saint Sara, who was, according to their ideas, an Egyptian and the
wife of Pontius Pilate, have contributed to the formation of an absurd
legend, but this one has its source, or its root, in something
different; there is an episode of a boat in the life of the Egyptian,
which assists the error by causing confusion."

Monsieur le curé proposed to return to that paragraph also.

"Born in the outskirts of Alexandria, Marie the Egyptian left her
family to lead the life of shame she had chosen, in the great city.
Coming to a river, she desired to cross it in a boat, and having not
the wherewithal for her passage, she paid the boatman in an impure
manner.

"Later, she undertook a journey to Jerusalem with a great number of
pilgrims, and on that occasion again she paid the expenses of her
journey in diabolical fashion, especially if we remember that those
whom she enticed into evil ways were devout pilgrims! And so, when she
presented herself at the door of the temple, an invisible and
invincible force held her back. She could not gain admission there."

Monsieur le curé was better satisfied with that, and took a pinch of
snuff.

"She thereupon withdrew to the desert, where she lived forty-seven
years. Her image appeared one day to the monk Sosimus at Jerusalem.
She appeared before him naked and begged him to come and confess her.
He obeyed, and went into the desert. He found her, naked, indeed, but
very old. And Sosimus was convinced of her saintliness because she had
the power of walking on the water. He listened to her confession. She
died in the odor of sanctity, as decrepit and horrible to look upon as
she had been fair and pleasant to the sight. A lion dug a grave for
her with his claws in the sand of the desert.

"The Egyptian's long penance had redeemed her life, therefore, and
under Louis IX. the Parisians dedicated a church to her, which bore
the name of Sainte-Marie-l'Égyptienne,--corrupted at a later period to
_La Gypecienne_ and then to _La Jussienne_. This church was on Rue
Montmartre, at the corner of Rue de la Jussienne.

"The church contained a stained window representing the saint and the
boatman, with this inscription: _How the saint offered her body to the
boatman to pay her passage._[5]

"We must not, then, in any case, confound Saint Sara, a contemporary
of the Christ, with Marie the Egyptian, who lived in the fifth
century,--a fact that cuts short all controversy.

"It is very fortunate," continued Monsieur le curé, well pleased with
his somewhat tardy conclusion, "that such a sinner was not among those
on board the boat of our Maries-de-la-Mer, for in that boat, as we
have said above, there were several of the Christ's disciples.
_Spiritus quidem promptus est; caro autem infirma._"[6]

Monsieur le curé took snuff, he removed and replaced his spectacles.
Monsieur le curé forgot himself. He went over all the early pages of
his treatise, he struck out and interlined; he struggled with
rebellious words. From time to time, he adjusted his spectacles more
firmly, and opened and consulted an ancient book of great size. He was
very busy, very deeply absorbed in his favorite employment. He forgot
that somebody was waiting for him, and poor Livette, all alone in the
parlor, with the dead birds and the shells, was sadly disturbed in
mind. The melancholy that possessed her was not dissipated--far from
it!--by the place in which she found herself.

All the dead birds, most of which she recognized as birds of passage,
reminded her of the weariness of winter, the season when the
wave-washed island is immersed in fog.

There were screech-owls, the pale-yellow owls that live in
church-steeples and at night drink the oil in the church-lamps;
vultures that come down from the Alps and Pyrenees in times of
excessive cold; the ash-colored vulture that lives at Sainte-Baume.
There are little tomtits, called _serruriers_ (locksmiths), which are
found only on the banks of the Rhône, and _pendulines_, so called
because they hang their nests like little pendulums from the flexible
branches swaying to and fro above the water; and _stocking-makers_,
whose nests resemble the tissue of a knitted stocking; and the
_alcyon_, that is to say, the _bleuret_ or kingfisher; and the
_siren_, of the brilliant diversified plumage, called also
_honey-eater_, which flies north in the month of May, and spends its
winters by preference in Camargue. There was a stork, that probably
considered Camargue, between the dikes of the Rhône, a little like
Holland. There, too, was the heron with its frill of delicate
feathers, falling like a long fringe over its throat. Livette knew it
only by the name of _galejon_, bestowed upon it in that neighborhood
because the herons' favorite place of assemblage was the pond of
Galejon. There was one that bore on its pedestal the date: 1807, and
the words: _Purchased at Arles market_; it was of a bluish slate
color, and had on its head three slender black feathers, a foot in
length. Then there were flamingoes galore, for they sometimes build
their nests by myriads in the marshes of Crau, sitting astride their
nests which are as tall as their legs. And the divers! and grebes! and
penguins, which are seldom seen! And the rascally pelican, called by
the people thereabouts _grand gousier_!

Livette fancied that she could hear in the distance the mournful,
heart-rending cry of the birds of passage, rising above the roar of
the wind and the sound of the river shedding its tears into the
ocean; dominating the mysterious sounds that fill the darkness. How
many times had she heard the cries of cranes and petrels and Egyptian
curlews over the Château d'Avignon in the season when the nights are
long, when the sight of the fire rejoices the heart like a living
thing full of promise, when the blackness of death envelops the world.
The birds remind her also of the Christmas evenings, the evenings when
the logs blazing in the huge fire-place and the many lamps seem to
say: "Courage! the night will pass." And it is then that the wheat
shows its green stalk, saying likewise: "Yes, courage! bad weather,
like all other, comes to an end at last."

Livette mused thus, and mechanically raised her eyes to the ceiling,
from which the crocodile was hanging.[7]

Livette did not say to herself that there was, somewhere on the other
side of the great sea, in the same Egypt to which Saint Joseph and the
Virgin Mary fled to protect the Child Jesus from the persecution of
King Herod, a great river, the mighty brother of the Rhône, and that
in the hottest hours of the day, on the islands in the Nile, the
crocodiles crawl in great numbers out upon the overheated sands to
expose their backs to the rays of a sun as hot as any oven.

She did not say to herself that Saint Sara, the swarthy patron saint
of the gipsies, is called by them the Egyptian, and that they water
their gaunt horses in the Nile as well as in the Rhône. She could not
say to herself--because she knew it not--that the Egyptians inherit
from the Hindoos a debased sort of magic, and that it was the same
sort, even more debased without doubt, that gave Zinzara her power.

Nor did Livette know that Zinzara carried in one of the boxes in her
ambulatory house--between a crocodile from the Nile and a sacred ibis,
both found in an Egyptian crypt--the mummy of a young girl, six
thousand years old, whose face, from which the bandages had been
taken, wore a mask of gold. She could conceive no connection between
the ibis of the Nile and yonder creature of the same name killed
within the year on the shore of the Vaccarès, but she underwent the
influence of all these mysterious connecting currents to which space
and time are naught.

The lifeless creatures, scattered all about her, lived again by virtue
of the power of retaining their form forever. And fear seized upon
her, for suddenly the mad idea, at once vague and precise, entered her
mind of a resemblance between the profile of the great reptile hanging
from the ceiling and the lower part of the gipsy queen's face.

Livette thought that she must be ill, and rose to go, determined to
wait no longer, but as she put out her hand to the door she uttered a
cry. A centipede was crawling along the key, as lively as you please.
She recoiled, and saw upon the white wall, at about the level of her
head, a _tarente_, that seemed to be watching her with its pale-gray
eyes. The _tarente_ is inoffensive, but Livette knew nothing of that.
It is the Mauritanian _gecko_, which abounds in Provence, a reptile
repugnant to the sight, with gray protuberances on the head and back
like those upon cantaloupe melons. And then the little fellow, the
tiny creature, resembles the crocodile!--Surely, Livette has the
fever.

"What's the matter, my child?"

Monsieur le curé has entered the room. He has a kindly air that
comforts the poor child at once.

He points to a chair. She sits down and dares not say a word. Where
shall she begin?

He urges her.

"Well, my child?"

He closes his eyes, that he may not embarrass her by his glance, which
he knows to be searching. He has left his spectacles up-stairs on his
great book. He closes his eyes; and with compressed lips, presses his
jaws against each other to a sort of rhythm, so that you can see his
temples bulge out and subside like a fish's gills. It is a nervous
affection. His hands are folded on his waist; he clasps his fingers
and plays at making them revolve about one another, mechanically; but
he is keenly attentive. Monsieur le curé loves the souls of his
fellow-men. He knows that they suffer, that life is infinite, and that
they veer about and call to one another in the boundless expanse of
space and time, like birds in a storm. He is reflecting. He is a
kind-hearted priest. He is imbued with the spirit of the Gospel. He
is indulgent. Does he not know that some great saints have been great
sinners? He desires to be kind. He knows how to be.

What can be the matter?

At last, Livette speaks. She tells him everything; the gipsy's first
appearance, her refusal to give her the oil she asked for insolently,
with jeering remarks about extreme unction; then of the ominous spell
she cast upon her, realized even now perhaps; the change in her
Renaud's character, his coldness, his flight; and then, that very
morning, the scene of the snakes; how she had been attracted--partly
by curiosity, no doubt, but also by her conviction that she should
hear something of Renaud. And how she gave her hand to the gipsy to
have her fortune told! That, she had done against her inclination! She
knew that it was wrong. Who would have dared say a moment before that
she would commit such a sin? But she was afraid of seeming cowardly,
not because of what the world would say, but because of _her_, the
gitana, in whose presence she deemed it her duty to display pride and
courage. She felt that she was very hostile to her. She was afraid of
her, and yet, in her despite, she would defy her. She was the stronger
of the two.--At last, she arrives at her most shocking avowal--she is
jealous. A terrible thought has come into her mind; is it possible
that Renaud could----? But no. Did he not, to save her from Rampal,
risk his life by leaping down from a first-floor window the whole
height of the house? To be sure, Rampal had stolen a horse from
Renaud, and Renaud had been looking for him for a long time----

Livette is undone. She has glanced at Monsieur le curé, who, before
replying, is listening to his own thoughts, in order not to be
diverted from the matter in hand. He is still playing with his clasped
fingers, making them revolve about one another.

Around them the swans, the pelican, the red flamingo, the petrel, the
ibis, look on with their eyes of glass imbedded in those heads that
have lived! There they stand, those phantom birds, with wings
outspread and one claw put forward, exactly similar in shape, color,
and plumage to the birds that are soaring above the Nile and the
Ganges, beyond seas, at this moment, and no less like other birds that
lived six thousand years ago.

The reptile on the ceiling, laughing down at them with his numerous
long, sharp teeth, does, in very truth, resemble some one a
little--but whom?

Livette, as she puts the question to herself, suddenly comes to the
conclusion that she is insane, utterly insane, to have had such an
idea! She smiles at it herself. And she seems to _feel_ her smile. She
does feel it. She fancies she can see it!

And at the moment she is conscious of a sensation--and a painful
sensation it is--of being there, in that same room, surrounded by
those creatures and in the presence of a priest--_for the second time
in her life_!

Yes, all her present surroundings _she has seen before_--this that is
happening to her _has happened before_. But the first time was a long
while ago, oh! such a long while! The great reptile on the ceiling
remembers, perhaps. That is why it laughs.--But she has forgotten _all
about it_. Why is she here? She no longer knows even that. She was a
fool to come here!

This Camargue country, you see, is the home of malignant fever. It
rises from the swamps in the sunshine, with fetid odors, exhalations
that disturb the brain and the action of the blood. From the dead
vegetation, from the dead water, bad dreams and fever rise like vapor.
There is an _evil atmosphere_ there; and the _evil eye_ too, thinks
Livette.

But who can say of what the mummy lying in Zinzara's wagon is thinking
all this time--the mummy of which Livette knows nothing, and which is
of the same age as Livette, plus six thousand years? Like Livette, it
has wavy hair, very long, but somewhat faded by time. It was once as
black as jet like that of the women of Arles. The mummy is of the same
age as Livette, plus six thousand years! The gipsies believe that so
long as the dead body retains its shape, something of its spirit
continues to dwell within it. Zinzara affirms that this mummy, which
she procured in Egypt, speaks to her sometimes and tells her things.

Ah! if we should undertake to go to the bottom of the simplest facts,
how they would puzzle us! Our Saracen mares of Camargue, sisters of
Al-Borak, Mahomet's white mare, and the bulls of the Vaccarès,
brothers of Apis, sometimes absent-mindedly take into their mouths, in
the heart of the swamps, the long, gently-waving stalk of the
mysterious lotus that lives three lives at once, in the mud with its
root, in the water with its stalk, in the blue air with its flower.

Not without reason do the zingari, descendants of Çoudra, flock to the
crypt of the three-storied church, there to adore the shrine of Sara,
Pilate's wife--the Egyptian woman.

Monsieur le curé, who is a profound student, is revolving all these
things confusedly in his mind--with no very clear understanding of
them himself--and pondering them.

Ah! if he could, how quickly he would sweep the island clear of the
gipsy vermin! But he cannot. Tradition forbids. Sara in the crypt is
their saint. There is a mixture of pagan and Christian in the affair,
painful to contemplate certainly, but with which he has no right to
interfere. The essential thing is that the Christian shall triumph
over the pagan, that God shall prevail against Satan--for certain it
is, whatever the gipsies may say, that they are not descended from the
wise king who was a negro and who brought the myrrh to Jesus.

How to protect Livette?

"Do not remain alone with your thoughts, my child. Carry your rosary
always with you, and tell your beads often, not mechanically but with
your whole heart. Confide your sorrows to your good grandmother, whose
Christian sentiments I well know. That simple-minded old woman has a
great heart.

"Avoid the town. Tell your father--who has always done as you wished,
nor has he had reason to repent of so doing--to have an eye to his
house, and never to leave you alone. Avoid Renaud for some little
time; at all events, do not seek him. He must have an opportunity to
read his own heart clearly; we must not--by trying to bring him back
to you--help him to mistake his affection for you, which is not,
perhaps, so deep as it should be. I will speak to him myself when I
have an opportunity. The day after to-morrow is the day of the fête at
Saintes-Maries. Do not fail to be present; bring us that day a heart
filled with faith and with the desire to do what is right. You will
meet many unfortunates there. Turn your eyes toward those who are more
wretched than yourself, and by comparing their lot with yours, you
will see how fortunate you are, who have youth and good health.

"The health of the soul depends upon ourselves. You will save yours.

"You will be the one, on the day of the fête, to sing the solo of
invocation just as the reliquaries descend--I ask you to do it, and,
if need be, I will lay the duty upon you as a penance.

"She who thinks on God and the holy women forgets all earthly ills.
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. They who fear shall be
reassured. Blessed are they who weep, for they shall be comforted----"

Monsieur le curé broke off abruptly. He realized, the kind-hearted
man, that his discourse was, by force of habit, degenerating into a
commonplace sermon, and, rising from his chair, he walked quickly
toward the door, bestowing an affectionate tap on the trembling
maiden's cheek with two fingers of the hand that held his snuff-box,
saying to her in a fatherly tone:

"Go, little one; you have a good heart. The wicked can do naught
against us. I will pray for you at Mass. Everybody in the country
loves you. Have no fear, my daughter."

Livette took her leave. The curé, left to himself, sighed. He saw that
Livette was confronted by an ill-defined, strange, diabolical peril,
of the kind that cannot be turned aside, that God alone can avert.

"It is fate," he muttered, employing unthinkingly a word of twofold
signification.[8] "It is fate," he repeated. "Life is a sea of
troubles, and God is mysterious."



XVI

ON THE ROOF OF THE CHURCH


Renaud, after his victory, dismounted for a moment, and, sitting down
beside Bernard, on the shore of the Vaccarès, where the cattle and
mares of his drove had resumed their attitude of repose, he set about
reviewing recent events in his mind.

To overturn his projected marriage, to ruin his future for the sake of
the gipsy, for the sake of the unworthy passion that was at work
within him--most assuredly Renaud had no such idea.

When the first fury of his desire was worked off by wild leaps and
bounds, after the fashion of his horse Prince, he found a way to be
reconciled with himself. His rugged honesty was impaired. He would try
to satisfy his passion for the accursed gipsy when occasion offered;
and that, he felt very sure, would do Livette no wrong!

Like a clever casuist, he combated his own instinctively honest
impulses with arguments which he invented with much labor, and then
complacently refined and elaborated, playing tricks upon himself.

Now that he could boast of having fought Rampal on Livette's
account,--omitting in his thoughts the other two reasons he had had
for fighting, namely, his determination to recover the stolen horse
and his desire to display his strength and courage to Zinzara,--he
could return to the Château d'Avignon with his head in the air, and
meet his fiancée again as if nothing had happened.

Why, after all, should he be ashamed? Had he not established a fresh
claim to Livette's gratitude and the esteem of her relatives?

He would take poor Blanchet back to her,--Blanchet, of whom she was so
fond,--and he could tell old Audiffret that the stolen horse was once
more browsing, with the drove, on the reed-grass of the estate.

No: after mature reflection, he was sure that there was nothing that
need make him ashamed.

Indeed, when one is not married, is he required to be so absolutely
faithful? And what is a man to do, when things fall in his way?

The eyes see before one has had an opportunity to prevent them! Even
after marriage, can one refrain from being moved by the sight of
youthful loveliness? Can one control the movements of his blood?
Desire is not a sin, and so long as Livette knew nothing, so long as
she did not suffer through him, what reason had he, in all frankness,
for self-reproach?

Nothing had come about by his procurement. He was still determined not
to speak to the gipsy woman--but he would be a great fool not to put
out his hand if the golden peach should offer itself to him
voluntarily.

And the salt breeze that blew across the rushes, arousing the passions
of the wild cattle, rushed through his veins, causing the blood to
rise in sudden flushes to his cheeks.

Of what avail against that breeze, which the heifers inhale with
delight, is the "I will not" of a young man who feels his youth? The
good Lord forgives it in others. "I have been worrying a great deal
over a very small matter of late," thought Renaud. And he sagely
concluded that he would return at once to Saintes-Maries, to set
Livette's mind at rest, as it was his duty to do first of all, without
avoiding or seeking out the other.

Meanwhile, what had Livette been doing?

When she left the curé, almost at the same moment that Renaud was
unhorsing Rampal, Livette had no wish but to take her horse and ride
home at once, without even waiting for dinner.

She felt that she was lost in such close proximity to the ill-omened
gipsies.

Her first thought was that Renaud, if he had overtaken Rampal, whom he
could not fail to master, would go without loss of time to the Château
d'Avignon.

But her second thought was that he would return to Saintes-Maries to
make the most of his triumph. She knew Renaud well! He was proud of
his strength and address. He was spoiled by the public at the races,
who applauded with hands and voice, and he loved to hear the "Bravo,
Renaud!"--He would return to the town, yes, he surely would!

He might imagine, indeed, that she, Livette, had remained there, and
return on her account--and a little on the other's account, at the
same time!--Ah! poor child! suspicion was just beginning to creep into
her mind. Just God! suppose that that zingara woman should fascinate
her Renaud!

Livette, having found her horse still tied to the church-wall, sent
him to the stable at the inn and went to the fisherman Tonin's to
share his _bouille-abaisse_.

"You did well, Livette," said Tonin, "you have avoided a sharp squall
of the _mistral_. But I know what I'm talking about; it's nothing but
a squall, and you can go home this afternoon quietly enough. It will
be too hot, if anything. But what's the matter, that you're so
thoughtful?"

Livette heard but little of all that was said at the fisherman's
table, and, after due reflection, returned to Monsieur le curé's after
the meal was at an end.

"Are you still at Saintes-Maries, little one?" he said, with a sad
smile.

"I had a fright, my father----"

Livette sometimes addressed the curé thus, because of the custom in
confession.

"A fright? how was that?"

"Suppose they have fought, who knows what may have happened? _Mon
Dieu!_ chance is uncertain, and that Rampal is so treacherous that
Renaud may be the loser. I would like, with your permission, Monsieur
le curé, to go up on the roof of the church at once; from there I
could see Renaud much sooner if he comes back here."

The happy thought had come to her of watching her betrothed, as he
himself had, that same morning, watched Rampal from the wine-shop
window.

The curé smiled again and good-humoredly took down the keys of the
little staircase that leads to the upper chapel and thence to the
bell-tower.

He left the house, followed by Livette.

At the foot of the great bare wall of the church, so high and cold,--a
veritable rampart with its battlements sharply defined against the
blue of the sky,--the good curé opened the small door.

They ascended the stairs.

When they reached the upper chapel, which is just above the choir of
the church, as we know, the curé said:

"I will remain here, little one, to offer up a prayer to the holy
women; you can go on alone."

But Livette, without replying, knelt devoutly beside the curé for an
instant, before the relics.

The relics were there, behind the ropes coiled about the capstan, by
means of which they were lowered into the church, as the little jug
from which the lips of the faithful drank so eagerly was lowered into
the miraculous well below;--there they were, on the edge of the
opening through which they were launched into space.

Through this window-like opening into the body of the church Livette
could see the chairs systematically arranged below, and, higher up,
the galleries, the pulpit, and the pictures--all well-nigh hidden in
the dark shadow, intersected by two rays of light that darted in, like
arrows, through the narrow loopholes.

Away down, below the gallery at the rear, opposite where she stood,
the chinks in the great square door were marked like fine lines of
fire by the sunshine without.

She gazed for a long moment at the blessed shrines, and conjured them
to turn aside the evil spell that she could feel about her.

And, do what she would, as she gazed at the shrines, which had the
appearance of two coffins laid side by side and welded together,
Livette was conscious that her thoughts became more melancholy than
ever. Had she not seen, year after year, some poor, infirm wretch in
despair lie at full length on cushions in the acute angle formed by
the two lids of the double coffin? And how many of them had been
cured? One in fifty thousand, and only at long intervals?

And yet, what scores of votive offerings that lofty chapel
held,--pictures, commemorative marble tablets, crutches, guns with
shattered barrels, and small boats presented by sailors saved after
shipwreck! Aye, but in how many years have the miracles been performed
of which these offerings are the tokens?--One shudders to think how
many.

And Livette, well content to divert her thoughts from such painful
subjects, left Monsieur le curé at his prayers, and went up on the
roof of the church.

The bright glare of the sky, bursting suddenly upon her, dazzled her.
She had to close her eyes; then she looked down upon the plain. The
plain was a flood of light.

The rascally _mistral_, that blows three, six, or nine days at a time
when it has fairly buckled down to work, had simply taken a whim, as
Tonin had foreseen. Not a leaf was stirring now. The sea had not had
time to grow angry below the surface. It was laughing. The ponds were
as smooth as mirrors. The sun shone hotter than ever in the clearer
air.

The swallows and martins circled about Livette's head, uttering in
endless succession shrill, piercing cries that constantly came nearer
and again receded. The pointed wings of the martins, also called
_arbalétriers_ or cross-bowmen, brushed against the turrets and shot
into the loopholes like arrows.

Livette looked off into the desert straight before her, and, not
seeing what she expected, she let her glance wander here and there
over the vast expanse, attractive but monotonous, which one can
traverse, from end to end, without ever seeing aught but endless
repetition of the same sand, the same tufts of grass, the same
gleaming waters.

From the top of the church the horizon seemed almost limitless in
every direction, for the golden peaks of the little Alps, vaguely
outlined down in the northeast, seem to be no more than jagged bits of
cloud.

When you are looking at them from that point, you have at your right,
to the eastward, Crau and the _sansouïres_, Martigues, and Marseilles
beyond the salt marshes of Giraud, cut into rectangular mounds of
glistening salt. In the west is little Camargue, with its temporary
ponds, its rare groves of pine, its euphorbium and branching asphodel,
and its Étang des Fournaux, the father of mirages, and filled with
shells, although it has no connection with the sea.

In this vast, flat region, the mind and the eye fall into the habit of
looking always to the horizon, embracing as much space as possible in
the hope of finding some inequality.

But they cannot escape the unchanging monotony, even less varied than
the monotony of the sea, for the sea changes color, and is by turns
black, blue, pale-green, dark-purple, or golden.

In our desert there are everywhere the same tamarisks, the same reeds,
and--round about the six thousand hectares covered by the waters of
the Vaccarès--always the same horizon lines, nowhere absolutely
unbroken, but almost everywhere festooned with clumps of tamarisks;
the mirage will always show you a pond gleaming in some spot of the
plain where none is to be found; and the fisherman, walking along the
shore, increases enormously in size as he recedes, because of the
refraction.

Sometimes the month of May is as hot in Camargue as August.

    "Au mois de Mai
    Va comme il te plaît."

Livette was dazzled by the glare, and lowered her eyes to scan, with
her keen glance, the most distant clumps of tamarisks, to follow the
almost invisible ribbon of the cart-road that leads from the Vaccarès
to Saintes-Maries. Her eyes are tired, and scorching in her head.
There is nothing in the landscape to give them rest.

Everywhere the treeless soil exhales a burning breath that rises in
visible vibrations. The spirit of the earth breaks its bonds and
hovers over her. She can see it ascending in hot waves. Her eyes
perceive the transparent undulations, the heat trembling in the cool
air, the very soul of the interior fire that trembles so to the sight
that one fancies he can hear it rustle. It is the never-ceasing dance
of the reflected light.

Weary of the glare of the plain, Livette turned toward the sea, but
the sea was simply an immense burnished mirror which flashed back at
the eyes, from the countless facets of its swiftly moving fragments,
the glow of the blazing sky multiplied beyond expression.

When she looked down once more upon the plain, she saw, about a league
away, a horseman trotting briskly toward the Saintes-Maries. By an
indefinable something in the bearing of that tiny speck she recognized
her Renaud.

So no harm had come to him!

She was on the point of going down again, when suddenly she forced
herself to bide a little there, to see what he would do when he
arrived.

He was already passing the public spring. He turned to the left, and
disappeared for a moment behind the houses. He was coming toward the
church.

From embrasure to embrasure she ran, to follow him with her eyes; and
in a few seconds he rode out into the square in front of the church,
at the foot of the Calvary erected there.

She leaned over and watched him. Where was he going? He had stopped.
His tired horse was standing quite still, simply moving his long tail
from side to side to drive away the gnats and gadflies that were
riddling his bleeding flanks with wounds, for, after the _mistral_,
the gadflies dance! And then? Nothing. Absolute silence in the vast
glowing expanse. Livette instinctively noticed that the horse's dark
shadow, clearly marked upon the ground, was already elongated,
indicating that it was four o'clock.

She continued to question herself as to Renaud's attitude--what was
he doing there, standing still like that?--when suddenly the sound of
a woman's voice singing floated up to her ears.

In the perfect silence, that voice, clear as a bell, poured forth
outlandish words that neither Renaud nor Livette could understand.

The zingara sang:

"Allow the romichâl, the tzigane, to pass. He is the spectre of a true
king. Kingly is his tattered cloak. A saddle is his throne. Is the
whole earth thy kingdom, Romichâl?

"At Boerenthal they speak the language of the Zend. Oh! the Çoudra
would become pope! Thinkst thou it was the evil-doer who invented
evil? Nay, nay; put not thy trust in God, and remain free, Romichâl!

"The Rhine, too, is a Nile. And the Rhône likewise. But thy mare
prefers to drink in the river of Châl! The Nile alone can make thy
hope neigh aloud, O Romichâl!"

With her eye, like a migratory bird's, Zinzara had long before spied
Livette perched up aloft between the crenelles of the church-roof,
and, seeing Renaud riding toward her, she, in joyous mood as always,
had begun to sing, from mere caprice and bravado, within the circle of
the echo of the lofty walls.

Like the serpents at the sound of her flute, Renaud was fascinated.
The gipsy suspected as much.

And when she had finished her song she showed herself.

"Surely thou hast killed thy foe, romi?" she said. "But how is it that
I do not see his heart at the point of thy spear? Thy maiden whose
blood is like snow will ask thee for it ere long. Ah! that was a kiss
well avenged--for a Christian! For if thy foe still sat in his saddle,
thou wouldst not be in thine, I suppose? Listen, then, my
beauty--although it be, in very truth, a crime for us zingari women to
deem a Christian fair to look upon, I must tell thee, none the less:
On the honor of a queen, romi, thou art handsome as a son of my own
race, brave as a highwayman, as fine a horseman as the best of us,
proud as a free man! I regret neither my anger of the other day, nor
my song of a moment ago, nor the compliment I pay thee now: for I
never do aught save that which pleases me! and my very anger does me
better service than reflection! Adieu, romi, may thy God guard thee,
if He knows me!"

Livette had heard nothing but the sharp, incisive tone in which the
gipsy spoke; she could not distinguish her words.

But as Zinzara went away, she took good care, before she disappeared
at the corner of the square, to send a kiss to the drover with her
finger-tips--a kiss which seemed to him, because he could see her
smile, a bit of raillery, but which was in Livette's eyes a token of
requited love. Renaud thereupon admitted to himself that he had
returned to Saintes-Maries in quest of nothing else than this
compliment from the gipsy--something that drew him nearer to the
seductive creature!

  [Illustration: Chapter XVI

    _From embrasure to embrasure she ran, to follow him with her
    eyes; and in a few seconds he rode out into the square in
    front of the church, at the foot of the Calvary erected
    there._

    _She leaned over and watched him. Where was he going? He had
    stopped._]

Now he had no choice but to turn back. He preferred not to see Livette
at once! He preferred to return to the free air of the desert, to set
his thoughts in order, discover his real feelings, reckon up his
chances, and, after that was done, to be left alone with the image of
the gitana, from whom he parted willingly, however, for he was very
glad to be at a distance from her, with unrestrained freedom of
movement, the better to think of her.

Before leaving the roof of the church, Livette cast a glance upon the
broad expanse of Camargue at her feet. Ah! how empty was that immense
space! The few scattered houses which would have delighted her eyes in
the plain, were hidden by the clumps of umbrella-like pines beneath
which they stood. Nothing human replied to the cry of distress uttered
by her poor heart, which longed to follow the bewitched drover into
the desert, and which seemed to her to flutter down from the summit of
the tower to the ground, where it was crushed by the fall like a bird
fallen from its nest.



XVII

THE OLD WOMAN


Renaud rode at a foot-pace to the _Ménage_, one of the farms belonging
to the Château d'Avignon. He had ordered Bernard to bring Blanchet to
him there, intending to take him back to the château. It was but a
short distance from one to the other.

He was exceedingly astonished to find that the more he reflected upon
what had happened to him--and it was really what he had hoped for--the
more dissatisfied he was.

He believed that he had finally formed, in spite of everything, a
fairly accurate estimate of the gipsy's character--a fact that pleased
him. He had simply said to himself that she was an uncivilized
creature, since she could forget all shame of her nakedness in her
haste to punish as best she could a man she deemed overbold. From her
very immodesty, from the arrogance and malignity she had exhibited at
their first meeting, he had, strangely enough, evolved a proof of
chastity so sure of itself, so disdainful of peril, that the
shameless creature seemed to him only the more desirable.

He knew that the gipsy women esteem thieves, but not prostitutes, and
he had enjoyed seeing in Zinzara a sort of savage virgin, ferocious as
a wild beast of the Orient, over whom he, the tamer of beasts, would
be the first to enjoy the pride of triumph. And, lo! she suddenly
aroused in him a feeling of repulsion which he could not explain.
Simply because he had heard her pronounce a few words, of obscure
meaning, like all gipsy words, and threatening in tone as he ought to
expect,--more amiable, in point of fact, than he had any right to
hope,--he believed her, as if it had been revealed to him in a dream,
capable of anything, a _wicked woman_! He felt that the devil was in
her.

He had no precise knowledge as to her age. Was she seventeen or
twenty-five? The swarthy tint of her impassive yet smiling face told
nothing, hid blushes and pallor alike.

Her face was extremely young, and its expression was of no age. Renaud
had undergone the inexplicable fascination of that face, whereon the
malignity born of a woman's experience of the world, false for the
sake of omnipotence, was mingled with something child-like.

Stronger men than he would have been caught in the snare. Neither king
nor priest could have escaped the evil fascination of the gitana! She
would have had but to will. The very things that repelled one were
attractive!

So Renaud was caught, and his manner showed it. Sitting upon his tired
horse, upon the stallion whose fiery nature was subdued by so much
hard riding in all directions, and who carried his head less high, the
drover, supporting the head of his spear upon his stirrup while the
handle rested against his arm, seemed like a vanquished king,
humiliated by the feeling that he was a prisoner in the free air.

He found Bernard at the _Ménage_, in the huge room on the lower floor,
like those in all the farm-houses of the province, with the high
mantelpiece, the long massive table in the centre, the kneading-trough
of well-waxed walnut, the carved bread-cupboard with little columns,
fastened to the wall like a cage, and the shining copper pans. Upon
the whitewashed wall a few colored pictures were hanging: the
Saintes-Maries in their boat; Napoléon I. on the Bridge of Arcola, and
Geneviève de Brabant, with the roe, in the depths of a forest.

An old shepherd was seated at the table, beside Bernard, slowly eating
his slice of bread.

"Is it you, king?" said he as Renaud entered. "I have seen you hold
your head higher! What's the matter with you? you look downhearted.
Aren't you still a cattle-herder, my boy? A shepherd's virtue, young
man, is patience, remember that. What you can't find in a day you may
find in a hundred years."

"Ah! there you are, Sigaud, eh?" Renaud replied, without answering
his questions. "When do you start for the Alps?"

"Right away, my son. We are behindhand this year. I am just getting
ready."

Nothing more was said. When they had eaten in silence their bread and
sheep's-milk cheese, and drunk a cup of sour wine made from the wild
grape, they rose.

The shepherd threw his cloak over his arm, took his staff from a
corner, and having doffed his broad-brimmed hat before an old image of
the Nativity, that hung on the wall, embellished with a branch laden
with cocoons, and beneath which, on a carved oak stand, stood a little
lamp, long unlighted, he went slowly from the room.

When Renaud, mounted upon Prince and leading Blanchet, left the
_Ménage_, he rode some time with the shepherds, by the side of the
enormous flock on their way to the Alps, where they were to pass the
summer season.

Two thousand sheep, led by the rams, and arranged in battalions and
companies, under the care of several shepherds of whom old Sigaud was
the chief, were trotting along the road with hanging heads, making
with their eight thousand feet a dull, smothered pattering, as of
falling hailstones, in the dense clouds of dust. The Labry dogs ran to
and fro along the edges of the flock, full of business, but frequently
turning their eyes toward their master.

A few asses scattered among the different companies bore upon their
backs, jolting about in double wicker-baskets, the sleepy, bleating
lambs.

Old Sigaud was in high feather, thinking of the cool, fresh air of the
Alps, where the grass is green and the water pure, and where he could
gaze in peace every night at Cassiopeia's Chair and the Three Kings
and the Pleiades in the heavens studded with myriads of stars.

"Adieu, Sigaud," said Renaud, drawing rein when the time came for him
to part from the flock and its guardians.

Sigaud also stopped in front of him.

"Adieu, Renaud," said he gravely. "There must be a woman at the bottom
of your trouble. You are too sad. But we called you _King_ to do honor
to your courage, you mustn't forget that. Remember, too, that
everything is of some use, my boy, and that good may come out of evil.
It takes all kinds to make the world!"

Renaud found Livette sitting on the stone bench in front of the door
of the château. He had not leaped down from Prince before she was
covering Blanchet with kisses. Audiffret was very glad to learn that
the stolen horse had returned to the drove, but when Renaud explained
that he had come, on this occasion, to return Blanchet, Livette showed
some feeling.

"So you are not satisfied with what he has done for you?" said she.
"Such a pretty horse! and so clever!--or perhaps you are tired of
teaching him for me, of preventing him from learning bad tricks in the
stable, of training him so that I can have the pleasure of seeing him
return a winner from the races at Béziers, where my father is anxious
to send him next month?"

"Certainly, Renaud," said Audiffret, "you ought to keep him. He gets
rusty here in the stable. But I am surprised at what Livette says.
Why, would you believe that she was regretting him this very morning,
saying that she proposed to ask you to bring him back to-day. And now
she doesn't want him!--It takes a very shrewd man to understand these
girls!"

But what Audiffret could not understand, Renaud, for his part,
understood very well. The lovelorn damsel said to herself that, by
returning the horse, her fiancé would rid himself of a reminder of
her, which was a cause of remorse to him perhaps--whereas, he ought,
like a jealous lover, to have wanted to look after Blanchet, and take
care of him for her, as long as possible.

Renaud resisted as best he could. He would have a deal of hard riding
to do at the time of the fêtes, he said, and he did not want to
overwork Blanchet or to leave him with the drove to become wild again.

Thereupon, Audiffret, easily influenced by the last who spoke, agreed
with Renaud.

While the discussion was in progress, Renaud had put up both horses in
the stable. That done, he went slowly up to the hay-loft, whence he
threw down an armful of hay into the racks through the openings in the
floor.

When he went down again, Blanchet was standing alone in front of the
mangers, nibbling at the hay.--Renaud ran to the door. Livette, having
removed Prince's halter, was shouting at him and waving her pretty
arms to drive him away, naked and free. Honest Audiffret, delighted at
his daughter's cunning, laughed and laughed. And Prince, overjoyed to
return to the desert after these few days of slavery, thinking no more
of the oats to be had at the château, stood erect like a goat, neighed
shrilly with delight, shook his luxuriant mane, flung up his tail and
thrashed the air, alive with the flies he had driven from his
flanks--and darted away toward the horizon through the lane between
the trees in the park.

Renaud had no choice but to submit with an affectation of gratitude,
and to laugh with the rest;--but it was more distasteful to him than
ever to ride a horse that belonged to him less than any other in the
drove, a horse that was his fiancée's.

Thereupon, Audiffret went about his various tasks; and, two hours
later, when they were all assembled in the lower room of the
farm-house, Renaud, being suddenly seized with _ennui_ at the thought
that he was likely at any moment to have to endure an embarrassing
tête-à-tête with this same Livette whose company he had so ardently
desired a few days before, spoke of taking his leave. Audiffret
remonstrated, and invited him to supper. They would drink a glass in
honor of his victory. Renaud refused awkwardly, conscious how lacking
in courtesy such an utterly motiveless refusal was.

But when the grandmother, who hardly ever spoke, urged him to stay, he
stayed.

The old woman rarely spoke, for her thoughts were always with the dead
and gone grandfather, who had been the faithful companion of her
toilsome life. She was slowly drying up, like wood that is sound in
all its fibres, but has lost its sap. Hers was a lovely old age, such
as are seen in the land of the grasshopper, where people live sober
lives, preserved by the light. Already advanced in years when she came
to Camargue, she had never suffered from the malevolence of the
swamps. It was too late. The cypress-tree does not allow the worms to
draw their lines upon its surface.

She was patiently awaiting death, sometimes mumbling _paters_ upon her
rosary of olive-nuts, gazing fearlessly, with her dimmed eyes,
straight before her at the vague shadow wherein her departed old man,
her good, faithful Tiennet, was waiting for her;--Tiennet, who had
never, in forty years, caused her a pang, and whom she had never
wronged by a smile, even in the days of her gayest youth. Tiennet,
from the depths of the shadow, sometimes called to her softly, and
then the old woman would be heard to murmur, in a dreamy voice: "I am
coming, good man! I am coming!"

Being left alone for a moment with Livette, just before supper,
Renaud did not know what to say. Nor did she. He did not dare to lie,
and she hoped that he would open his heart and confess. At one moment,
she felt that the very fact of his silence was sufficient proof of his
treachery, and the next moment, on the contrary, she said to herself:
"If there was an understanding between them, he would not be here! I
was mad! He loves me."

At supper, he was very talkative, told about his battles and his
hunting exploits; how, the year before, with that rascal of a Rampal,
he had beaten up two coveys of partridges, on horseback, in a single
morning. They had taken twenty-eight, more than twenty being killed on
the wing at a single casting of their staves, Arab-fashion.

Audiffret, overjoyed at the recovery of a horse he had thought lost
forever, drew from under the woodpile an old-fashioned bottle, a gift
from the masters, those masters who are always absent--like all the
landowners of Camargue, who prefer to dwell in cities,--Paris,
Marseilles, or Montpellier,--leaving the desert to their _bailiffs_.

"Ah! the masters in old times!" said Audiffret, "they had more courage
and were better served and better loved!" Renaud, becoming more and
more animated, stood up for the times we live in. The grandmother,
grave and serious as always, said once to Audiffret at table,
speaking of Renaud: "Wait upon your son, my son." Well, well, he was
decidedly one of the family.

And that certainty, which it behooved him to retain at any price,
instead of moving his heart to gratitude, led him on to play the
hypocrite. He was ready to betray Livette, without renouncing her, for
he loved her so dearly, so sincerely, that he felt that he was ready,
on the other hand, to renounce the gitana, without too great a pang,
if circumstances should make it necessary. He laughed a great deal,
raising his glass with great frequency, and winking involuntarily at
Audiffret, as if to say: "We are sly fellows!" But honest Audiffret
could not detect his excitement. He had never interested himself in
anything except the farm accounts. He had never divined anything in
all his life, not he!--As far as the gipsy was concerned, she
certainly would not leave Saintes-Maries before the fête, that is to
say, for a week or more. After that, she could go where she chose! it
would make little difference to him. What could he hope for from a
wandering creature like that? An hour's meeting at the cross-roads on
the way to Arles! Nothing more!

As to Zinzara, he had hopes; as to Livette, he had certainty. And he
was very light of heart.

So it was, that, when the time came for him to take his leave, he
indulged in an outburst of affection toward his new family, quite
contrary to his usual habit, and to the habit of all drovers, who are
rough-mannered by profession.

You must know that the peasants, in general, do not kiss except on
great occasions--weddings or baptisms. Only the mothers kiss their
young children. The man of the soil is of stern mould.

"Audiffret," the grandmother suddenly said to her son, laying her
knitting on the table and her spectacles on her knitting;--"Audiffret,
every day brings me a little nearer the end, and I would like to see
this marriage take place before I die. You must hurry it as much as
possible, now that it's decided on. And if I can't be present on the
wedding-day, don't forget, my children, that the old woman blessed you
from the bottom of her heart to-night."

And, without another word, she calmly took up the stockings and
needles.

She had spoken almost without inflection, in a grave, calm tone,
moving her lips only.

Every one was deeply moved. Livette looked at Renaud. He, carried away
by his emotion, forgot everything except this new family that offered
itself to him, the orphan. Livette saw it and was grateful to him for
it. She felt that he was won back, like the stolen horse, and she
sprang to her feet in a burst of enthusiasm.

"Kiss me, my betrothed!" said she proudly.

He kissed her with heartfelt sincerity.

The father and the grandmother looked on with eyes that gradually
became dim with tears.

When he had pressed the father's hand, Renaud turned to the
grandmother, as she stuck her knitting-needle into the white hair that
fluttered about her temples.

"Kiss me, grandmother!" he said, with a smile.

The old woman gave a leap, then stood erect, recoiling a little as if
in fear:

"Since my husband died, no man has ever kissed me," she said, "not
even my son there! Let young people kiss. Life is before them. I," she
added, "am already with the dead."

And with that, the old peasant-woman, straight and stiff and
withered,--the image of a by-gone time, when it was deemed a
praiseworthy thing to remain true to a single sentiment,--sought the
bed of her old age, which was soon to see her lying dead, with the
tranquillity of a simple, loving, faithful heart upon her
parchment-like face.



XVIII

THE BLESSED RELICS


The great day has arrived. From all parts of Languedoc and Provence,
pilgrims, rich and poor, have come to Saintes-Maries. There are fully
ten thousand strangers in the town.

For three days past they have been arriving in vehicles of all shapes
and of all ages.

Many of these pilgrims lodge with the villagers at extraordinary,
princely rates. A bunch of straw on the floor brings twenty francs.
The villager himself sleeps on a chair, or passes the night in the
open air on the warm sand of the dunes. If the bulls arrive during the
night for the sports of the following day, he assists the drovers to
drive them into the compound, in the wake of the _dondaïre_, the
enormous ox with a bell.

The houses are soon filled to overflowing. New-comers are obliged to
camp. Tents are pitched. People live in carts and wagons, in breaks,
tilburys, calèches, omnibuses, as far away as possible, be it
understood, from the gipsy encampment.

Around the little town, the hundreds of vehicles constitute a roving
town of their own, resting there like a flock of birds of passage
around a swamp.

And on all sides naught can be seen but tattered, crippled,
hunchbacked, deformed, blind, or one-eyed creatures, broken in health,
lame, maimed, scrofulous, and paralytic, dragging themselves along or
dragged by others, carried in men's arms or on litters, some with
bandages over their faces, others displaying unhealed wounds from
which one turns aside in horror.

Here a poor fellow who has been bitten by a mad dog wanders about with
gloomy brow, tormented by insane anxiety and hope, for a pilgrimage to
Saintes-Maries is especially efficacious against hydrophobia.

All varieties of misfortune are represented. All the children of Job
and Tobias have journeyed hither to find the healing angel and the
miraculous fish.

A motley crowd swarms upon the public square in the bright sunlight,
and in the narrow streets, under the luminous shadow of the awnings.
From time to time, it parts, with loud shouts, before a drover, who
rides proudly by, his sweetheart _en croupe_ with her arms about his
waist.

Here and there flat baskets laden with rosaries, sacred images,
Catalan knives, and handkerchiefs of brilliant hue stand out like
islets in the midst of the sea of promenaders, and all the merchandise
displayed for sale takes on a pink or pale-blue tint through the great
stationary umbrellas that shield it from the sun.

Amid the fantastic piercing notes of a _galoubet_, or high-pitched
flute, tambourines can be heard humming in cadence in the interior of
a wine-shop, where young girls of the province are dancing in
Provençal costume, dark-skinned girls with white teeth beneath their
sensuous lips; very like Moors they are, the descendants of some
Saracen pirate who ravaged the Ligurian shore.

The town is flooded with joyous light. Everybody is in his Sunday
dress. Upon the fever-haunted strand, whither a whole people flocks to
pray to the Saintes Maries for bodily health, that joyous sun is
dangerous. The whole scene has the appearance of a hospital ball, a
fête given by dying men. The devil wields the bâton, it may be. One
would think it, to see the faces of the gipsies, whose expression,
notwithstanding certain cunning leers, is and remains undecipherable.

In the church with the black, dirt-begrimed walls, filled with a fetid
odor by such an accumulation of misery, diseased flesh, and perspiring
humanity, the people crowd about the iron balustrade of the little
well, as if it were the Fountain of Youth. The poor, green,
dilapidated pitcher humbly descends at the end of its cord to bring up
from the sand below brackish water that to-day seems sweet.

Keep faith with them, O saints!--Faith gives what one wishes.

They are waiting for four o'clock, the hour at which the relics
descend.

At four o'clock precisely, the shutter of the high window up yonder,
under the ogive arch of the nave, will open. The relics will come down
toward the outstretched arms. The little children will be lifted up
toward them. The dead arms of the paralytics will be raised toward
them. The blind will turn toward them their sightless eyes, or their
empty, blood-stained orbits.

Meanwhile, Livette, who is standing there in the centre of the crowd,
directly in front of the altar, facing the grated door through which
you go down into the crypt, is preparing to sing the solo of
invocation. Her fresh, pure voice is to be the voice of all these
wretched creatures, crushed under the weight of impurity and disease.

Just below the high altar, which is studded with tapers, the gipsies
are huddled together in their crypt, with tapers in their hands,
invoking Saint Sara. The vault is dark. The gipsies are black. The
little glass shrine of Saint Sara has become black under the
accumulated filth of years. From the centre of the church you can see
through the grated opening, which resembles an air-hole of hell, the
innumerable twinkling lights of the tapers below, waving to and fro in
the hands that hold them. A muffled sound of praying comes up through
the opening.

In the church, every hand now has its taper, and they are rapidly
lighted one from another. The lights dance about in the air. But the
interior of the nave is dark. The high walls, pierced by narrow
windows, are grimy with age. And all this obscurity, where suffering
and misery crawl and cower, is studded with stars like heaven. To the
gipsies in the crypt, who will not see the blessed relics descend, the
body of the church, which they can see from below through the
air-hole, is a heaven beyond their reach, the world of the elect.

But the elect, alas! are damned. Their heaven is the chapel up yonder,
in which the power they invoke lies sleeping, beneath the stained wood
of the boxes, like to a double coffin--the power that may remain deaf,
the all-powerful power that will never perhaps awaken for any one, the
marvellous power upon which cures depend and which withholds
happiness!

Such was the interior of the three-storied church of Saintes-Maries on
that day. And above the lofty chapel, there was the bell-tower
overlooking the whole country-side. Surrounded by endless numbers of
swallows and sea-gulls, for centuries past it has looked upon the
glistening desert, the dazzling sea, the dumb infinitude of space,
which could explain things if it would, but only beams and laughs.

The hour drew near. The crowd was panting with heat and hope and fear.

Renaud was not there.

"Remember--we promised to burn three tapers each before the relics,"
Livette had said to him.

"I will come to-night," was his reply. "There's the branding to-day.
I have to look after my bulls."

So Livette was a little distraught. She was thinking of joining
Renaud, of being present at the branding, of keeping an eye on her
betrothed. Where was he?

But Monsieur le curé made a sign: Livette began to sing. Alas! why was
not her lover there? Her voice, which she knew was pleasant to the
ear, might have some effect on him. How eagerly he listened to the
gipsy's singing the other day!--Livette sang, and the buzzing of
prayers and litanies and invocations of all sorts, that every one was
indulging in on his or her own account, subsided as her clear, pure
voice arose. O God! what is this humanity of ours? It is vile and
abject, but it has some sense of shame. The basest know how to pray
that they may be cured of their baseness. And, however much they may
have rolled in the mire of their natural inclinations, a time comes
when they set the flame alight, when they burn incense, and when all
keep silent to listen to the voice ascending to Heaven, imploring for
them a grace that no one knows, that perhaps does not exist, but that
every one imagines and desires!

"Eat your excrement, dog!" say the gipsies; "what care I? There is a
light in the dog's eye that is not often seen in the eyes of kings."

Livette sang. The curé said to himself:

"O my God, mayhap this child of Thine will obtain favor in Thy sight!"

Livette's voice was as fresh as the water of salvation for which the
assembled multitude thirsted. And how intently they listened! But, at
the end of each stanza, weary of restraining their tumultuous
ejaculations of hope, they sent up from thousands of throats an
inarticulate roar in which only the two words: _Saintes Maries!_ could
be distinguished.

Livette sang:

    "Quand vous étiez sur la grande eau,
    Sans rames à votre bateau,
          Saintes Maries!
    Rien que la mer, rien que les cieux----
    Vous appeliez de tous vos yeux
    La douceur des plages fleuries."[9]

"_Saintes Maries!_" roared the people; uttered at the same moment by a
thousand voices acting upon a common impulse, the frenzied appeal was
like an explosion.

Every one shouted with all his strength, for the saints must be made
to hear! Every one shouted with all his lungs, with all his heart,
with all his body, one might say. Heaven is so far away! Open-mouthed,
their faces twitching convulsively, they gazed upward. The veins in
their necks were swollen to the bursting-point. The muscles swelled
and thickened in faces to which the blood rushed in torrents. The
brothers, lovers, husbands, mothers, fathers, of the sufferers,
availed themselves of their own strength to call for help, howling
like wounded wild beasts turned toward the dawn. All this suffering
multitude, all this swarming heap of tainted, diseased flesh, uttered
the terrifying roar of a monster in pain--and still the
preternaturally shrill shriek of some doting mother would soar above
the horrid uproar. And all around the church, filled with the nameless
appeals of these damned of earth, lay the calm, silent desert, the
blue, foam-flecked sea, the brilliant sunlight, insensible to
everything.

    "Sous le soleil, sous les étoiles,
    De vos robes faisant des voiles
          (Vogue, bateau!)
    Sept jours, sept nuits vous naviguâtes,
    Sans voir ni trois-ponts ni frégates----
    Rien que la mer et la grande eau!"[10]

"_Saintes Maries!_" roared the people, and each time the shout burst
forth from thousands of throats, suddenly and at the same instant,
with the effect of a strange kind of explosion.

    "Dieu qui fait son fouet d'un éclair,
    Pour fouetter le ciel et la mer,
          Saintes Maries!
    Amena la barque à bon port----
    Un ange, qui parut à bord,
    Vous montra des plages fleuries!"[11]

"_Saintes Maries!_" the people roared again. And the appealing cry,
made up of so many cries, burst forth with a sound like that made by a
great wave that breaks against a cliff and is instantly scattered
about in foam! And again the young girl's voice arose above all the
vociferating, grinning creatures. Might not one fancy that he saw a
sea-swallow, white as the dove of the Ark, soaring over a bottomless
abyss?

    "Vous pour qui Dieu fit ce miracle,
    Voyez, devant son tabernacle,
          Tous à genoux,
    Souillés du péché de naissance,
    Nous invoquons votre puissance,----
    Saintes femmes, protégez-nous!"[12]

And for the last time, the deafening, harsh cry arose:

"_Saintes Maries!_"

Oh! the thousand, two thousand ejaculations of insane longing that
flew upward, at a single flight, flapping all their wings at once, to
fall back, dead, upon themselves.

It is very certain that there was in that frenzied appeal all the
madness of suffering, all the wrath of unsatisfied longing, and rage
as of unchained beasts, against the very beings they implored.

Meanwhile, the double shutter up above had not yet been thrown open.
And Livette, in accordance with the curé's instructions, was to repeat
the last verse.

So she began again:

    "Vous pour qui Dieu fit ce miracle----"

But these first words had hardly passed her lips when her voice
faltered and died away. For a few seconds there was a silence as of
utter amazement in the church. Of what was Livette thinking? Of
what?--For the last minute, just God! her eyes had been obstinately
fixed upon the black opening leading to the crypt. In that opening, on
a level with the floor of the church, she had seen a head: it was the
gipsy queen, who had come up from the crypt, in mischievous mood,
curious to see Livette singing. Immediately below the great altar she
emerged from the dark depths of the cellar amid the ascending smoke of
the tapers. She came from her kingdom below, and with her copper crown
and gleaming ear-rings, her swarthy skin and her fiery black eyes, she
seemed to Livette a genuine devil from hell.

Zinzara ascended two steps more and her bust appeared. She darted a
keen, penetrating glance at Livette. That is why Livette was confused,
and why she called with all her strength upon the women of compassion,
the holy women above, for help against this woman from the chapel
below.

But the shutters that concealed the shrines were opened at last. And
slowly, very slowly, they descended, swinging from side to side, with
a slight jerky movement, at the ends of the two ropes, embellished
here and there with little bunches of flowers.

Is not this the image of every life? Is there aught else in the world?
Something descends from heaven, something ascends from hell; and we
suffer with hope and fear.

"_Saintes Maries!_"

Amid the vociferations of the crowd, Livette lost her head, she
forgot to sing, and, carried away by the prevailing excitement, hope,
and terror, she began to cry aloud with all the rest, like a lost
soul, while Zinzara, from below, continued to gaze fixedly at her.

What would you say, Monsieur le curé, to Livette's thoughts,
who,--poor creature of the world we live in!--between the holy women
and the woman devil, no longer knew which way to turn? Had she not
reason to tremble? For the shrines descend to no purpose, they bring
us naught but dead relics--while the sorceress is a creature of flesh
and blood, whose feet walk, whose eyes see!

Far away from us, in the land of dreams, of supernatural hopes, above
the sky and the stars, are the sainted souls that have pity for
mankind; as far from man as Paradise itself are the chaste women who
embalm the crucified ones in herbs and spices, while _she_ is close at
hand, always ready, always armed against the repose of Christian
souls, she, queen of diabolic love, who, seeking only to gratify her
caprice, makes sport of everything!

Livette became more and more confused beneath Zinzara's steadfast
glance, and she tried in vain, after silence had at last been
restored, to resume the invocation. She faltered and stopped again.

Thereupon there was great confusion among the waiting multitude. All
those men and women who were holding their peace in order to listen
to the outpouring of their own souls in the maiden's voice, to the
pure, unspoken prayer which was in their hearts, but which they could
not put in words, had been thrown back once more, and more
despairingly than ever, upon themselves, upon their own helplessness,
when Livette's voice died away. Just at the decisive moment, their
interpreter failed them! They were afraid of their profound silence,
so contrary to the impulses of their hearts. In order to be heard on
high, their prayer must be offered; and, seized by the same thought,
every one began to shout or sing on his own account, some beginning
again at the very beginning, others taking the stanza they knew by
heart or had before them in a book, others repeating at random bits of
the litanies, one the _credo_, another the _pater_, and never did
prayers offered up to God create such a hellish uproar, since the
discordant cries of all the sorrows of mankind ascended to Heaven.

Stronger women than Livette would have been disturbed as she was,
would have felt their powers failing. She put her hand to her forehead
to detain her mind that seemed to be making its escape. Was not she
the cause of all this trouble? What would become of her, in this
state? She was afraid and ashamed at once.

Instead of looking up, instead of watching the blessed relics that had
now accomplished half of their descent, she could not refrain from
returning the fixed stare of the gipsy woman below, whose eyes seemed
to pierce her soul.

Livette suffered keenly. The gipsy's gaze entered into her very being,
and she felt that she could do nothing. It seemed to her as if a
sharp-toothed beast were gnawing at her heart. Instead of praying, she
listened to the terrible thoughts within her. She fancied that she
could feel the hatred go out from her with the glances that shot from
her eyes! She tried to stab to the heart with it that creature who was
defying her down there. Would not somebody kill the witch, who was the
cause of everything? Ah! Saintes Maries! what thoughts for such a
place! at such a time!

The relics slowly descended, and, amid the roars that greeted them,
Livette, in her overwrought imagination, fancied that she saw herself
clinging to Renaud, beseeching him to be faithful and kind to her, and
not to go to that other woman; and when he refused and left her, she
leaped at the gipsy's face and scratched her and clawed at her like a
cat.

Thus the sorceress's soul passed into Livette. Already, without
suspecting it, she had begun to resemble her enemy, the gitana who
leaped at the nostrils of Renaud's horse the other day. And yet this
little fair-haired girl was not one of the dark-skinned maidens of
Arles, who have African and Asian blood in their veins! No matter;
she, too, has a wild beast's fits of passion. Love and jealousy are at
work making a woman's soul.

The relics were still descending; and Livette feverishly told off
_paters_ and _aves_ on her rosary.--Patience! on the day after the
fête, the gipsies, she knows, will leave the town! Two more days and
her agony will be at an end.

Meanwhile--she makes this vow in presence of the relics--she will not
gratify Renaud by showing that she is jealous, as she is, and not
until later--when Zinzara is far away, and there is no chance of her
coming back--will she, perhaps, tell her promised husband that he lied
to her, that he is a traitor, because, instead of avenging her upon
the gipsy, he was false to his fiancée with her--for of course he is
false to her, as he is not there!--She will tell him, then, not in a
passion, but to punish him. It will be no more than justice.

By dint of uncoiling themselves by little jerks, the ropes have
lowered the relics almost within reach of the hands stretched up to
meet them. Thereupon the rabble of poor devils could contain itself no
longer. Every one was determined to be the first to touch them. Those
who were already in the choir, directly below the hanging relics, lost
their footing, crowded as they were by those who were pressing in from
the body of the church, jostling and crushing one another with a
constant pressure. Livette was borne along on the wave, seeing
nothing, and with but one thought in her mind--to touch the
consecrated relics herself!--That she felt she must do, so that she
might escape the influence of the glance the black woman had cast at
her. She would seek to turn aside the fatal spell that had been upon
her ever since her first meeting with the sorceress! But would she
reach the shrines?--Livette felt that she was seized by two strong
arms. She turned: it was Renaud! He had just entered the church with
two other drovers, his friends. These three young men, glowing with
the outside sunlight, healthy and strong, amid the lame and halt and
blind, had the insolent bearing--cruel without meaning to be--of manly
beauty, of life itself. They extricated the girl and made a ring about
her. She was able to breathe.

"Would you like to touch the relics, demoisellette?"

Forcing their way before her, without great effort, but pitilessly,
through the crowd of cripples, they cleared a passage for her. Livette
walked quickly, she drew near the spot, and Renaud, seizing her around
the waist, lifted her up like a child so that she touched the
consecrated relics first of all!

Still with the three youths as a body-guard, before whom all were fain
to stand aside, and without further thought--poor you! it is the law
of the world--of the innumerable, nameless perils by which she was
encompassed, she left the church content. Peace had found its way into
her heart once more. Her Renaud was there by her side. Was all that
she had dreaded a dream and nothing more?

"Ah! it is good to be outside!" he said, filling his lungs with the
fresh air.

"Yes, but when will you light the tapers, Renaud, that you are to burn
in the church as I promised for you?"

"Oh! I have a whole day before me," he replied. "Now let us go to the
races."



XIX

THE BRANDING


The relics having descended, the majority of those present left the
dark church and returned to the dazzling outside world.

As the crowd poured out through the narrow side-doors, another crowd
was forcing its way in through the main entrance, making but slow
progress,--two or three steps in a quarter of an hour,--all hot and
perspiring, in a cloud of luminous dust.

Many young men were there, for the pleasure of being pressed by the
crowd against the pretty girls, their sweethearts, whose sinuous
bodies they could feel against their own, and who could not escape
them there. How many hands and waists were squeezed which the mothers
could not see!

And in undertones they said:

"I love you, Lionnette."

"Fie, François!"

"Let me go, Tiennet!----"

Thus, beside the infirm and incurable, who know naught of the good
things of life, love saucily sports and laughs, feels its own force,
and seeks return. The incense in the church serves only to inflame its
desire, and more than one youth offers his beloved a rosary, whose
boxwood cross he has ardently kissed before her eyes, so that she may
find the kiss with her lips.

All day long, the pilgrims and invalids enter the church. Many will
pass the night there, keeping vigil with the tapers, on their knees or
prostrate before the relics; and more than one, each in his turn, will
lie down upon them, on cushions brought expressly for the purpose.

For the moment--it is the first day of the fête--nothing is talked
about in the streets of the town save the bulls and the sports.

"Are you going to the races?"

"Yes."

"Does Prince run? He's the best horse in all the droves."

"No, he won't run; Renaud, who usually handles him, told me that he
was too tired."

"Pshaw! what a pity!"

"What about the bulls? Shall we have any that are a bit ugly?"

"There's _Sirous_ and _Dogue_ and _Mâchicoulis_. I cut them out myself
with Bernard and Renaud. They gave us a lot of trouble! They refused
to leave the herd. As soon as we got them out, back they would go
again. But we set _Martin_ and _Commetoi_ at them, two bull-dogs that
can't be matched anywhere; and even _Mâchicoulis_ obeyed at last!"

"_Martin_ and _Commetoi_?--Those are curious names for dogs!"

"It's a joke. When any one asks: 'How is your dog called?'[13] The
dog's master replies: '_Commetoi!_' [Like yourself.] The other man
gets angry, and it raises a laugh."

"And what about the full-blooded Spanish bull, with the horns twisted
like a lyre; shall we see him?"

"_Angel Pastor?_ He is sick. I like our straight-horned bulls better.
The important thing is that the horns should be far enough apart for a
man's body to go between them."

"Are there any heifers?"

"One, a wicked one--_Serpentine_."

"And _bioulets_?"

"Young bulls, do you mean? Renaud has kept six of them, expressly to
give the strangers a chance to see a branding."

"When will the branding come off?"

"In a moment. Suppose we go to see it."

The gipsy was present at the branding.

The arena was against the church, at the end opposite the main
entrance.

The many-sided irregular enclosure was formed on one side by the high
wall of the church; on another, by a house standing by itself, against
which was a series of roughly made benches, one above another; on
still another side by three or four small houses, each of whose
windows formed a frame for a dozen or more heads of young men and
women, crowded together and all laughing gaily. At the base of one of
these houses was a café with a glass door opening on the arena and
barricaded by tables and overturned chairs. On each side of the door
was drawn, in deepest black, a silhouette of a bull of the Camargue
type, that is to say, with straight horns of ample proportions.

On all sides of the enclosure where there were no stone walls, their
place was supplied by wagons bound firmly together by their shafts.

At the corner of the wall of the church, there were three great iron
rings one above another, and through them were thrust three wooden
bars, which could be moved back and forth at will.

These bars were to be let down for the young bulls which were to be
turned out of the arena, one by one, after they had been branded, to
find their way alone to the desert. Outside the bars, a system of
barricades closed the streets of the town to them, and--by compelling
them to go behind the few houses facing the arena--guided them,
whether they would or not, to the margin of the open plain in less
than a hundred steps.

Zinzara was present, as we have said, standing in a wagon. She
followed with impassive glance all the happenings within the arena,
grotesque and heroic alike.

These duels between man and beast are grand or disgusting according
to the character of the adversaries. It sometimes happens that the man
attacks in a cowardly fashion, or that the beast, from astonishment it
may be, or fatigue, turns about and tries to return to the stable.
Fine contests are rare.

Sometimes a sharp stone is thrown from a safe distance by a disloyal
foe. The surprised beast receives it full in the face; the blood flows
in long streams from his nostrils to the ground. He looks straight
before him, his great eyes filled with mirage, and does not budge, as
if he were at once saddened and contemptuous.

Sometimes a mischievous rascal has the happy thought of coming very
close to him and throwing sand in his eyes by the handful. Another,
more mischievous than he, covers the bull with filth collected from
the gutter! But the sand-thrower, being spattered thereby, himself
picks up a handful, and the two heroes engage in a fierce battle with
dung picked up smoking from the ground under the bull's very tail,
amid the laughter and applause of a whole population, until the
champions, reeking with filth, are abruptly separated by the bull, who
bestirs himself at last and charges them.

"This way! this way, Livette!"

Livette had just come into the arena. Her young friends called her and
gladly moved closer together to make room for her on the benches.

A stable just beside the café had been transformed into a _toril_.
Just above the door of the stable was the long window of the hay-loft,
level with the floor. Two herdsmen, sitting in the window with their
legs hanging outside, rose from time to time, and could be seen
pricking the _dondaïre_, the beloved leader of the herd, through the
holes in the floor above the hay-racks. The _dondaïre_ would thereupon
go out and lead the tired bull back to the stable. Every time that a
new beast left the _toril_, or one that was tired out returned, a
dexterous hand swiftly closed the door.

All these things, which were probably by no means new to the gipsy,
who was doubtless familiar with the tragic entertainments of Madrid
and Seville, left her unmoved. Her eye did not kindle; it was as dull
and vague as a heifer's.

The "amateurs" played with a few bulls. They were not ill-tempered.
Somebody seized one of them by the tail. A whole party clung to his
skirts, dancing the farandole--but were soon scattered. The
performance thus far was not inspiriting, but it was amusing.

Behind the glass door of the café, which opened on the arena, some
congenial spirits were emptying a bottle and smoking while they
enjoyed the spectacle. The door was barricaded by a rampart of
overturned tables, with their legs in the air and passed through a
net-work of broken chairs.

Suddenly the bull, overturning tables and chairs, put the drinkers to
flight: he had thrust his bulky head through a square of glass. The
café rang with shouts of alarm mingled with amusement. The wagons in
the arena shook with the joyous stamping of their occupants; the
planks were torn off by excited hands; the people at the windows of
the little houses rattled the shutters noisily in their delight. To
see the crowds on the roofs laugh made one fear that they would fall
in. Thus was the frolicsome bull applauded. The gipsy alone did not
smile.

A great oat-bin stood in a corner of the arena, placed there purposely
perhaps. A very old man,--not too old to play the merry-andrew,--armed
with an old red umbrella, raised the lid, climbed into the bin, and
opened his umbrella, which was of the most brilliant shade of red. The
bull rushed at him--the old man let the lid fall. Bin and umbrella
closed at the same moment upon the laughing bald head. The hilarity of
the public was at its height. The gipsy did not seem amused by the old
man's drollery.--Nor did she laugh when a manikin was set up in the
centre of the arena and the bull carried him off on his horns and
hurled him into the midst of the spectators; and she did not even
smile when, a window on the ground-floor of one of the houses being
thrown open, a little child was seen in his mother's arms, behind the
iron bars, teasing the furious animal. Laughing with glee, he held a
plaything out through the bars, a little pasteboard windmill, whose
pink and blue wings were made to turn by the monster's breath.

Then came a tragic episode. A man--an _amateur_--struck by the sharp
horns; his thigh pierced from side to side; the first cowardly
movement of flight on the part of the other contestants; the return of
the valiant fellows, who diverted the bull's attention and drew him
off while the wounded man was removed, accompanied by the piercing
shrieks of his wife and daughter.

At last, the serious business of the day began. It was announced that
the branding was about to take place. Immediately thereafter would
come the game of the "cockades," which consists in snatching a cockade
suspended between the bull's horns by a thread. With his hand or with
a hooked stick the rider breaks the thread, snatches the
cockade--_Crac!_ a quick recovery, and the victor has won the scarf!

The branding is hard work turned into a game; it consists in branding
young bulls with a red-hot iron, with their owner's cipher.

A young bull having been turned into the arena, Renaud walked up to
him, and, as the beast made a rush, cleverly avoided him by turning
upon his heel. The bull having, thereupon, stopped short, Renaud
seized him by the horns.

Clinging to him with his hands, closed like knots of steel about the
horns, the man was dragged for a moment, standing, over the ground, in
which his thick soles dug ribbon-like furrows. The spectators clapped
their hands. The bull lowered his head and stood still. Renaud, with
his legs apart and bent a little, and his feet firmly planted in the
ground, threw all his weight to the left. All the muscles of his chest
and arms stood out beneath his shirt, which was glued to his skin by
perspiration. The bull, with all his sluggish strength, tried to throw
himself in the opposite direction. Suddenly Renaud gave way, and the
bull, losing the support of his resistance, fell heavily before a
sudden contrary effort. And there he lay at full length on the ground,
gasping for breath.

The man, who had not released his hold, forced his head to the ground
by sitting on it.

"Bravo, king! bravo, king!" cried the crowd.

Bernard took the red-hot iron from a brazier and carried it to Renaud,
who, thereupon, let go one horn, and kneeling heavily upon the beast's
withers, seized the iron with his right hand and pressed it against
his shoulder. The hair and flesh smoked and crackled. Renaud rose
quickly, and the bull, springing suddenly to his feet, shook himself
all over, lashed his sides with his tail, bellowed with anger, pawed
the ground with his foot, and, amid the shouts of the crowd, darted
through the barrier, which was opened at that moment. A moment later,
he could be seen far away on the plain, galloping at full speed. He
soon rejoined the drove which he or any of his fellows can readily
find for themselves, even if it be on the other side of the Rhône,
which they often swim.

Six bulls, one after another, were thus thrown down by Renaud.

The sport enlivened him, he was intoxicated by the consciousness of
his great strength. Excited even more by the applause of the people,
he trembled from head to foot. From time to time, he wiped the great
beads of perspiration from his forehead with the back of his hand.

A sunbeam fell across one side of the arena, which lay in the dark
shadow of the high church-wall. Renaud ran thither, hatless, in
shirt-sleeves and close-fitting red breechcloth, shaking the short
curly locks of his thick, jet-black hair.

The girls applauded, I promise you, more loudly than the young men,
who were somewhat jealous. Zinzara's eye--her wagon was standing in
the ray of sunlight--kindled at last.--And Livette, blushing deeply,
was proud of her king.

When the sixth bull he had thrown was still under his knee, Renaud
made a sign to Bernard. Bernard ran to him, knelt beside him, and
seized the bull by the horns in his stead. Another drover came to help
Bernard hold the beast, and Renaud rose.

He walked across the arena, and when he came to where Livette sat,
beckoned to her. Everybody understood and applauded.

She walked forward to the edge of the platform on which the benches
were built, and lightly placed her foot on the strong cross-bar that
served as a support to the spectators in the front row; from there she
jumped confidently into Renaud's arms, who caught her about the waist
and set her down as if she had been a little child.

He took her hand and led her toward the bull.

If Renaud had looked at Zinzara at that moment, he would have
surprised in her eyes a gleam which she did her best to hide behind
her half-closed lids. The smile vanished from her mocking lips.

But Livette and Renaud, the pair of comely lovers, were thinking of
naught but the fête, of themselves, of this strange betrothal at which
all their people were present, and the like of which not even princes
could give, for it required rare strength and address on the part of
the fiancé. It was, in very truth, the triumph of a manly king.

"Bravo, king! bravo, queen!"

As they passed the brazier in the centre of the arena, he stooped
quickly, and seized with his free hand--without stopping or releasing
Livette's hand--the red-hot iron, which he handed to her as soon as
they were beside the bull. She took it, and, leaning forward, branded
the bull on the shoulder, and when they saw the flesh smoking under
the iron she held in her strong little hand, when the bull began to
quiver with wrath, the enthusiasm of the people burst forth. Hats and
hands and scarfs were waved in the air.

"Bravo, king! bravo, queen!"

And Renaud, envied by all, escorted the maiden back to her place,
while the bull, set free, rushed from the arena in his turn and out
upon the plain. No, Zinzara no longer laughed.

The game of the "cockades" was next on the programme.

The first two or three were easily carried off--one from the head of
Angel Pastor himself, the Spanish bull--by the young men of
Saintes-Maries, and it had not occurred to Renaud to take part in the
sport.

At last, Serpentine, a nervous little heifer, was let loose in the
arena. Every one realized instantly that she was in a bad temper and
would defend herself.

Several tried their fortune against her, but, just as they put out
their hand to the cockade, Serpentine would turn about so quickly, and
with such agility for a heifer, that they fled. Ah! the hussy! Zinzara
suddenly became interested in the game. Renaud had gone down into the
arena.

"The king! the king! bravo! king!" shouted the crowd.

And Renaud performed prodigies of skill.

Three times he placed his foot upon Serpentine's lowered head, and
allowed himself to be hurled into space, to fall again upon his
elastic legs. And as soon as he reached the ground the third time, he
turned like a flash, ran straight to the heifer, snatched away the
cockade,--avoiding the blow she aimed at him with her horns in her
rage,--and was calmly walking away, when the agile creature returned
to the charge.

Renaud ran, as chance guided him, closely pursued by the beast, and
when he had leaped upon the nearest wagon, he found himself beside the
gipsy, whom he had instinctively seized around the waist.

The heifer had already turned her attention to some of the other
contestants, and very fortunately, too,--for the gipsy, who was
standing on the edge of her wagon, leaning against the insecure
boarding, lost her balance, and leaped down, perforce, into the arena,
carrying Renaud with her.

Livette turned pale as death.

The heifer came galloping back at full speed toward Renaud and
Zinzara, the latter of whom, being entangled in the folds of her
ragged finery, thought that she was lost.--Boldly she turned and faced
the danger, too proud to fly, at least when to fly would be useless.
But Renaud had already stepped in front of her to protect her, and,
seized with some insane idea or other,--the bravado of a
horse-breaker, or of a lover, if you choose,--instead of entering into
a contest with the heifer, instead of seizing her by the horns or the
legs, stopped, and, without taking his eyes from the beast's face,
quickly knelt upon one knee, squatted upon his heel, folded his arms,
and, with his head thrown back, defied her. Like an experienced
"trapper," he counted upon the beast's astonishment, and she did, in
fact, stop short, and scrutinize him suspiciously. The gipsy, her lips
pressed tightly together, having regained her place upon the wagon,
looked back and saw her protector still in that singularly foolhardy
attitude. As may be imagined, everybody was shouting: "Vive Renaud!"
It seemed as if they would never weary of it.

When he rose, he was again charged by Serpentine, and had barely time
to regain his place of refuge beside the gitana; and the furious beast
attacked the flooring of the wagon just at their feet with such a
fierce blow of her powerfully armed head, that it was caught there for
a moment by the horns, so that Renaud had to force them out by
stamping upon them with the heel of his iron-shod boot.

Then the gipsy smiled, and, bending over toward the drover's ear,
whispered a word or two that made the handsome horse-breaker smile
with her.

Livette--who was a long distance away, at the other end of the arena,
but almost opposite them, and so placed that she could see them in the
bright light--had not lost a single gesture, not a single glance.

What jealousy does not see, it divines, and that is not surprising,
for it sees what does not exist.



XX

THE SNARE


The relics were exposed twenty-four hours in the church.

The second day, they reascended to their chapel, amid the howling of
the same poor wretches whose hopes they carried with them.

At the moment when the relics take their departure, the spectacle
becomes terrifying. What! all is over! what! they leave us in our
misery, our woes sharpened by the disappointment! And it is all over!
over, for a whole year! And yet the power that can heal is here, shut
up in this box, so near us! among us! They rush at the shrines and
cling to them!--Nails are broken and bleeding against the iron-bound
corners!--And the inexorable capstan up above turns and turns, tearing
from the writhing crowd at the bottom of the well the strange coffin,
that goes up, up, at the end of the straining ropes. Standing on
tiptoe, jostling, overturning, crushing one another without pity, the
poor devils struggle for the last touch--the last, supreme touch that
may, perhaps, because it is the last, secure the coveted grace.--And
all in vain. Amid the sobbing prayers, the mysterious closed vessel
goes up toward the lofty chapel, carrying the water of salvation of
which so many feverish lips long to drink. And when the shrines pass
out of sight, near the arch, behind the lowered shutters,--then
veritable shrieks of agony go up from the frenzied crowd who cannot
endure the death of hope.

Then the uproar becomes truly frightful; then selfishness breaks
forth unbridled, each one uttering for his own behoof the bestial cry
that should bring down on him alone the saints' compassion; then the
lamentation is wild, the supplication horrible to hear, the prayers
are prayers of rage! And in this deep moat, whose walls tremble with
the noise, there is a great uproar as of unclean beasts, thirsting
for their God as for a physical blessing, as for a vainly awaited
promised land! And, nailed against one of the bare walls of the
fortress-church, a great crucifix, with open arms and upturned face,
above all those distorted faces, all those raised and writhing arms,
seems to mingle with the fierce lamentations of the human brutes its
divine but no less fruitless and much more despairing cry!

And yet, it is almost always at the last moment, at the precise second
when the shrines disappear, that the miracle takes place, and a
paralytic walks or a blind girl sees. One cries out: "Miracle!"

Lucky girl! She is surrounded, almost suffocated.

"Can you see?"--"I did see."--"Can you see
now?"--"Wait--yes!"--"What?"--"A bright red lily! a flash! an
angel!"--"Miracle! miracle!"

A man, a villager, immediately takes the child in his arms. Ah! he has
seen miracles before! See how he hurries to take the child away on his
shoulders, on the shield! He carries her thus so that all may see the
miraculously-cured; so that no one shall forget that genuine miracles
are done at Saintes-Maries, and come again! And the crowd follows,
giving thanks. They hurry to the parsonage; the miracle is recorded in
the presence of several assembled priests.

"Did you see?"--"Yes, I saw!"

And the procession moves on.

Ah! Christophore, the old pirate!--How he hurries along, with his lie
on his shoulders!--He is a poor inhabitant of Saintes-Maries to whom
the presence of so many strangers every year brings in something, as
it does to all the rest, and he trots joyously off with his living
decoy.

The next day, the child of the miracle is found alone at the foot of
the Calvary, on the beach, left there for a moment by the woman or
child who acts as her guide.

"Well, can you see?"--"No."--"What about the miracle, then?"

Poor child! In her plaintive voice, she replies: "It has gone
again!"--"But you did see, yesterday?"--"Yes."--"If you could see, why
did they carry you?"--"Oh! monsieur, I couldn't see anything but
flowers, bright red lilies; but as to walking--oh! no, I couldn't see
to do that! And now it is all dark. I can't see anything at all any
more; yes, the miracle--has gone away!"

As soon as the relics had disappeared, everybody left the church in
procession, to go to bless the sea--the sea that bore the saints to
Camargue--the sea whereon the brave fishermen risk their lives every
day.

The curé walked at the head of the procession. He held a relic in his
hand; it was the Silver Arm, a hollow object in which some relics of
the saints can be seen through a little square of glass.

The crowd followed in order. There were hundreds, yes, thousands of
them. Great numbers of pilgrims, sitting on the dunes, watched the
procession winding its way along the sandy beach where a few
flat-boats lay high and dry.

Behind Monsieur le curé, six men bore on their shoulders a carved and
painted wooden image, of considerable size, representing the two
saints in the boat. There was so much jostling, by so many of the
crowd, to secure the honor of replacing the bearers, that the boat
pitched and rolled on their shoulders as if it were at sea in a high
wind.

Saint Sara, the black saint, came next, borne by dark-haired,
swarthy-faced gipsies, with eyes that glistened like jet. Their little
ones meanwhile glided through the crowd like rats, creeping between
people's legs and stealing handkerchiefs and purses.

And in the wake of the saints came young men and maidens, carrying
lilies, sweet-smelling lilies, collected in sheaves every year for the
procession of the faithful.

Others held tapers whose light could not be detected in the bright
sunlight, but the lilies filled the air with perfume. These lilies
were Livette's delight.

Monsieur le curé reached the water's edge. He held out the Silver Arm.
Thereupon, the sea, for an instant, recoiled--only a little. The poor
fishermen's wives quickly crossed themselves.

And all those who were standing on the dunes, watching the procession
pass, saw the bearers marching at the head loom taller and taller at
every step by reason of the mirage. And the saints on the bearers'
shoulders gradually increased in size with them, and seemed to rise
heavenward, of prodigious size, as in a vision.

"Protect us, great saints! May the sea be kind to us of Saintes-Maries
this year!"

Poor people, poor souls! Wait till next year.

Every year it is the same thing. All this returns and will return,
like the seasons.

On the day following that on which the relics returned to their
retreat, the majority of the pilgrims left the village. All the camps
were struck at almost the same hour.

The carriages of all sorts, the cabriolets, dog-carts,
_chars-à-bancs_, _jardinières_, break-necks, the rich farmers' breaks,
and the peasants' wagons, covered with canvas stretched over hoops,
carried away seven, eight, ten thousand travellers of all ages, sick
or well, and the long line crawled like a serpent over the flat road
between two deserts. Here and there, at the left of the line, mounted
men, many of whom carried a girl _en croupe_, rode back and forth,
looking for one another, now waiting, now riding on at a gallop to
take the lead of the caravan.

This departure of the pilgrims was another spectacle for the good
people of Saintes-Maries, who stood around in noisy groups on the
outskirts of the village, waving a last adieu to the guests whose
presence they had taken advantage of to the utmost.

Those who had been compelled to give shelter to friends and had
consequently been unable to put so high a price on their hospitality,
good-humoredly repeated the amusing sentiment, that certainly smacks
less of Arabia than do the horses of the district: _Friends who come
to visit us always afford us pleasure; if not when they arrive, at all
events when they depart._

On the second day following that on which the gipsy had smiled upon
the drover, when the party of zingari passed in their place at the
tail of the procession, some mounted on sorry nags, others jolting
about in their wretched wagons,--some of the women on foot, the
better to beg, carrying their children slung bandoleer-wise over their
backs,--it was observed that the queen's wagon was not among them.

Zinzara had remained at Saintes-Maries.

She proposed to give herself the pleasure of administering a rebuff to
the drover, with whom she had made an assignation for that very
evening.

This is what had taken place.

During the branding, Renaud had whispered in Zinzara's ear:

"Ah! now I have you, gipsy! what a pity that it is before all these
people!"

"On my word, I have the same thought _at this moment_," she replied,
deeply touched by the grand presence of mind he had just shown in
defending her.

"All right," he said, "I'll come and speak to you very soon. These are
lovely nights."

"No, to-morrow," said she, "to-morrow, do you understand? after the
wagons have gone."

But at the close of the performance, when he saw Livette coming toward
him with pale cheeks, so pale that she looked like a corpse, he was
seized with poignant remorse.

"She saw me," he said to himself, "and she is suffering from
jealousy."

And so great was his pity for the poor little girl that he felt
capable of sacrificing to her, once for all, at the very moment when
it had become more difficult than ever, his insane passion for the
other. All the chaste affection he had felt for Livette from the very
first, so different from passion and so pleasant to the senses, came
back to him like the puff of fresh air that awakens one from a bad
dream.

Furthermore, he was surprised, almost disconcerted, to find that the
gipsy's formal promise did not afford him the pleasure he had expected
when he had dreamed of it in anticipation.

Livette left him to join her father, who was not to take her back to
the château until the evening of the following day, two or three hours
after the departure of the pilgrims, in order to remain until the end
of the fête, and to avoid the thick dust and the enforced slowness of
the long procession.

And that day--in the afternoon--Renaud fell in with Monsieur le curé.

"Good-day, drover. What is the matter, my boy? You seem preoccupied."

"Oh! curé," said Renaud, "sometimes it is difficult to do what is
right!"

With that he was about to pass on, but the curé seized his arm and
detained him.

"Eh! curé," said Renaud, "you have still a powerful grasp!"

"Beware, Renaud," said the curé very slowly, "lest you become a great
sinner. I know what I know. Your betrothed wife is weeping. She is
jealous. Already rumors are in circulation concerning you. And for
whom, just God! would you betray that virtuous girl, who, wealthy as
she is, gives herself to you, a poor orphan? You would ruin a whole
family, poor you! and your honor and the repose of your heart,
forever! The devil is crafty, you are right, and to do right is
difficult, but those whom the devil inspires, when you follow their
momentary caprice and your own fancy, lead you on to abysses deeper
than the _lorons_ of the _paluns_. You are walking at this moment on
the moving crust! If it bursts, adieu, my man! You will be engulfed
body and soul. As for yourself, that is a small matter! but by what
right do you compel the little one to run the risk of your downfall?
You are dealing with an accursed creature, a woman who does not know
herself, who is submissive to nobody, and who cares nothing for the
misfortunes of others. Whatever she does is for her own amusement. I
have seen her and watched her. The saints have taught me many things.
Beware! The little one is brave. Some day there may be innocent blood
on your hands, if you keep on in the road I forbid you to follow, for
the devil is in the affair, I tell you, and all sorts of monsters are
awaiting you at the turning in the evil road. A betrothed lover's
infidelity, like a husband's, lays an egg filled with ghastly
creatures, which sometimes hatches. If you have a heart, show it,
Renaud, take my advice, and go back to your horses and cattle in the
solitude of your plains, where the malignant fever is less to be
feared than the disease you are taking here!"

Renaud, the tall, strong, dashing blade, listened to these wise words,
hanging his head, poor fellow, like a child scolded for not knowing
his catechism.

"If you are a man, make up your mind at once, and give me your word as
a true-hearted drover."

"Take my hand, Monsieur le curé. I give you my word. I was in a fair
way to go wrong. A spell was on me."

The two men exchanged a grasp of the hand.

The curé walked away with an anxious heart. He knew that Renaud was
sincere, but he knew the strength of man's passion and his ingenuity
in lying.

So the curé had been asking questions?--In that case, to consort with
the gipsy was to risk a rupture with Livette.

Renaud was about to leave the village,--or, if you please, the
town,--with his mind firmly made up to renounce the gitana. Yes, he
would sacrifice her to Livette, to his earnest desire to have a
peaceful, happy home and a family, he, the wandering cowherd, the
orphan, the foundling of the desert. That was happiness;--a roof to
shelter one, a roof whose smoke one can see from afar on the horizon,
thinking: the wife and little ones are there.

He would renounce the gitana; yes, but he proposed to make known his
resolution to her himself. At the thought of leaving Saintes-Maries
without _seeing her again_, for the purpose of telling her that he
would not _see her again_, a weary feeling came over him; it seemed to
him that he was suddenly shut up in a narrow space, and left there
without air, without horizon.--But he would see her again--he must. It
would be better so. Must he not soothe her anger first of all? She
would be angry enough in any event. Why exasperate her?--In very
truth, if he did see her again, it was--he reached this conclusion
after much thought--it was principally in order to protect poor
Livette against her! Yes, yes, it was for her sake that he would see
her again. See her again! At those words, which he repeated softly to
himself, a joy in living, in moving, in breathing, took possession of
him.

Meanwhile, Zinzara, for her part, was vowing inwardly that she would
enjoy a hearty laugh at the drover when he should presently seek her
out!

Why, in that case, had she answered _yes_ to his amorous questions?
Oh! because at the moment when he whispered them in her ear, if she
had been able, upon the spot, to give herself to this savage, all
aglow from his conflict with bulls and heifers, doubtless she would
have done it. He had awakened desire in her, as heat awakens thirst,
as a summer evening awakens longing for a bath.--And then it had given
her pleasure to say to herself that, over at the other end of the
arena, the woman to whom he had paid queenly honor by giving her the
smoking, red-hot iron, like the sceptre of a magician or a wicked
zingaro king,--that that woman was suffering torments.

But he came too late. The desire had passed away. And the acme of
delight to her now lay in the thought of refusing the promised favor
to the Christian she detested, while giving Livette to believe that he
had been false to her.

Sitting upon a stone, alone, at some distance from her wagon, she
awaited the drover. Her resolution to take vengeance by refusing was
written upon her compressed lips, whose smile became more malicious
than ever when she saw him riding toward her.

A few steps away he stopped. As he looked at her, he felt a sudden
rushing of the blood in all his veins, a strange, delicious pressure
at the pit of the stomach. He recognized the characteristic agitation
of love; but he made an effort, and said, in a voice which he felt to
be unsteady: "I expected to be free to-night, but I am not. The master
has sent for me, and I must be far away from here by night-fall. So I
must go at once. Adieu, gipsy!"

Zinzara understood instantly that he was running away from her, and
why!---- She rose, like the serpent that rises on its tail and hisses
with anger. All her harsh resolutions vanished in a twinkling; and, in
a short, sharp, jerky voice, entirely different from her natural
voice, she said: "I want you, do you hear? No one else shall give you
orders when I have orders for you. What I want done is done. Are you
going to act like a coward, pray--you, who have taken my fancy
because, when you are on your horse, you resemble a zingaro who knows
neither master nor God? Come, go on!"

Thus, the same motive of passionate hatred,--as pleasant to her taste
as love,--that a moment before induced her determination not to go
with Renaud, now threw her into his arms. And to him the love or
hatred of such a woman, at the moment when she gave herself to him,
was one and the same thing; were there not still her passion, her
animated features, her gleaming eyes, her lips that, as they moved,
disclosed two rows of pearly, sparkling teeth? Was there not her
flexible, ballet-dancer's body, significantly held out toward him to
whom she laid claim?

A thrill of savage joy shook Renaud from head to foot; and, as his
rider shuddered, as if he had been touched by a cramp-fish, the horse
seemed to experience a similar sensation, and pawed the ground an
instant, between the knees that involuntarily pressed closer to his
sides.

What was he to do? Ah! blessed saints! His betrothal had kept him
virtuous for a long while, you know; had held him aloof from the frail
damsels with whom he formerly consorted, and his youth was speaking
now. The sea-bull must have the wild heifer. Lions that have loved
gazelles, so says the Arabian legend, have died of it. Living
creatures, by the law of nature, crave paroxysms of passion; so long
as they have them not, they seek them; and pay for them, if need be,
with their own and others' blood. Who of us will blame them for
becoming delirious sometimes, if we remember that life longs to live,
and that that longing overshadows the fear of death?

"Come, go on!"

The queen uttered love's command. And with one bound she jumped to the
saddle behind him. In a twinkling she had wound her right arm about
the horseman's waist: "Go on!" she said again; and then, in an
undertone, in a voice that was no more than a warm, speaking breath
upon the man's neck, and made him shudder to the very roots of his
hair, she added: "I want you, do you understand? I want you! So go on,
go on! The man who goes on, arrives!"

He was caught, fast bound. The sorceress's arm was about his loins. He
felt it against him, living, trembling, stronger than aught else.

The stupefied Renaud tried to regain his self-control,--to shake off
the spell. He sat there, dazed, unable to disentangle his thoughts, to
determine what he should do, trying to collect his ideas of a moment
before, the good curé's advice, his word of honor, none of which could
he remember or repeat to himself in his mind, intelligibly. It had all
gone from him, out of reach of the effort of his memory. When an
intense amorous passion guides our movements, it is as legitimate as
physical force,--honor is not betrayed: it has ceased to exist!

Those few seconds of hesitation afforded Zinzara perfect comprehension
of what was taking place within him. His desire was no longer ardent
enough to satisfy her pride, since it was possible for him to waver
ever so little!

"Where are we going?" said she, resuming her sharp, jerky tone, in
which there was a suspicion of a hiss. "Where are we going? You must
know of a hiding-place somewhere, some deserted cabin in the midst of
your swamps here,--a perfectly safe place, all your own, where you
have taken other women--what do I care? _Pardi!_ I don't suppose that
you waited for me, to _learn_! I will go wherever you take me.
Remember this--it must be somewhere where nobody can find me, for my
race doesn't mix with yours: the zingara who gives herself to a
Christian is the only despised one among us, and if one of our people
should see me, there would be knives in the air, you may be sure, for
you and for me!"

He still hesitated, remembering that he had reasons for hesitation,
but unable to remember what they were. Mechanically he held back his
horse (it was Blanchet!), who was acting badly.

At last, in the hurly-burly of his thoughts, he seized, at random,
upon one thing he had entirely forgotten, the tapers promised by
Livette to the Saintes Maries. He was to have lighted them devoutly in
the church, during the night before or that morning. Yesterday his
fiancée had reminded him again of the promise. Doubtless, Livette had
lighted them for him, but that was not the same thing. And so the
devil had him, do what he would. He lost his head. He felt that he was
sliding down an inclined plane, and finding his struggles of no avail,
he abandoned himself to his fate and hastened his fall.

"I know where we will go," he said; "to the Conscript's Hut, in the
swamp."

It seemed to him that he was forced to reply, but he no longer felt
any internal revolt against that obligation--far otherwise.

"Is it far?"

"Yes, in Crau, on the other side of the Rhône, near the Icard farm.
The devil couldn't find me there. Rampal might come there, no one
else----"

"Wait," said she at that name, with a sudden gleam in her cat-like
eyes.

She whistled.

He said to himself that some one from Saintes-Maries would certainly
see them, and that Livette would learn the whole story--that it would
be better now to start at once.--Or perhaps--who knows?--the delay was
a good thing! Livette might pass, herself, and all would be changed.
He would hasten to her side. They would be saved. Who would be saved?
and from what? from a vague, terrible thing that was before him. He
could not have told what it was; but it was simply the renunciation of
his own will.

The gitana's clear, shrill whistle summoned a little zingaro of some
ten years, a veritable wild cat, who came running to the horse's side.

From the saddle she said a few words in the gipsy language to him, in
a short, imperative tone of command. The gipsy language is composed of
German, Coptic, Egyptian, and Sanscrit. Renaud listened without the
slightest suspicion of the meaning of the words.

In a fit of amorous hatred, the swarthy queen said to the little
fellow:

"You know Rampal, the drover? go and find him. He is in the village; I
saw him not long ago. Go at once and tell him this: he will find me
to-night, with his enemy, whom you see here, in the Conscript's Hut,
which he knows! And I will join you and the wagon to-morrow evening,
in the town of Arles, by the old tombs."

She thought of everything. The wild cat disappeared.

"What did you say to him?" Renaud inquired.

She began to laugh, an insolent laugh.

He felt that he abhorred her, that he would delight to see her
conquered, under his heel, absolutely in his power, gipsy queen and
sorceress that she was, like an ordinary woman.

Each desired the other in hatred.

She laughed as she thought that the man about whom her arms were
thrown like a lover she was luring to his destruction. That very
night--before or after the joys of love; what cared she for
that?--there would be between him and that other a struggle as of wild
beasts, which she longed to see; a witches' carnival of love, to
rejoice the souls of the dead; and she laughed.

"Queens," said she, "cannot leave their kingdoms without issuing
secret orders. Come, my beast!"

Was she speaking to the man or the horse?--To the man, doubtless, in
whom she had awakened an animal like herself.

She pressed him tighter, and again she whispered:

"Come, come!"

He felt the vampire's breath playing in the short hair on his neck and
descending in hot flushes to his feet, which were nervously tapping
his horse's flanks. Renaud trembled. His passion had taken possession
of him once more in all its intensity. It seemed as if a hurricane
were raging in man and horse alike. They started off at full speed.

Renaud believed that he had a victim in his grasp, but he was himself
the victim, and he rode away with the witch clinging fast to him--as
the kite sometimes flies away with the serpent, thinking that he has
mastered it, only to be strangled in its folds at last.



XXI

HERODIAS


They galloped across the plain. At every step, Renaud felt the gentle
pressure of the woman's arm. Zinzara and Renaud galloped away upon
Livette's horse!

Of what was the drover thinking? Was she girl or woman? His pride made
him persist, in spite of himself, in wishing that she might be the
former, although it seemed hardly probable, heathen females mature so
early!

A breath of air blew in their faces. It brought to their nostrils the
pungent smell of tamarisk blossoms. He slackened his horse's pace.

"Go on, go on!" said she, "press on! We will talk later--by ourselves,
romi, where nobody can see us."

The horse darted forward afresh.

Renaud was conscious of a vague yet overmastering feeling of pride in
being there, in trampling the grass of the plain with four feet, in
knowing no obstacles, in having that woman close beside him--and, over
yonder, another!

One would run risks and be false to the traditions of her race for
his sake. The other, if she should know, might die of the knowledge.
And, although he loved her, the thought caused a thrill of savage joy,
but he promptly repressed it. Luckily, however, she would know nothing
of it. And he became intoxicated with the rapid movement and with
pride, man and beast combined, fairly launched upon his mad career.

Magnificent was the sky, studded with more stars than the dunes have
grains of sand and the desert waving flowers clinging to the twigs of
the _saladelles_. The Milky-Way was as white as the pyramids of salt
seen through the morning mist. One would have said that a vast bridal
veil, torn in strips, was floating above the whole plain, alive with
murmurs of love.

Innumerable little snails were perched, like blossoms, upon the stalks
of the reeds, and swung to and fro.

A very gentle breeze was blowing and raising a slight, uncertain
ripple along the edges of the marsh, with the sound of a furtive kiss
among the flowering rushes. At times, a lark or a flamingo, asleep
among the reeds or in the shallow water, would awaken ever so little
and chirp to let his mate know that he was there, not far away.

June is no hotter. Sometimes the smell of roses filled their nostrils,
coming in long puffs from far-off gardens. Yonder, in the park of the
Château d'Avignon, the Syrian tree was sending forth its pollen.

Renaud, after skirting the sea for some distance, rode due northeast,
beyond the pond of La Dame.

He was bound for Grand-Pâtis. The people at Sambuc had some boats that
he knew of.

For a moment, they rode beside a drove. Bulls, standing in water up to
their thighs, hardly noticed, were feeding on the flowering reeds.
White mares fled at their approach, followed faithfully by stallions
anxious not to lose sight of them. The sap of May was flowing in the
reeds and rushes, in the sambucus and tamarisk. The very water exhaled
a saline odor, stronger than usual, and more heavily laden with
desires. The wild vine called to its mate, that came borne upon the
heavy breath of the blooming desert.

Again Renaud stopped, seized with a mild, pleasurable vertigo.

The fresh, love-compelling breeze in which they were bathed laid an
imperious command upon him.

"Get down," said he, "get down at once! This is a good place to rest."

But she remembered the order she had given.

"We must go where we were going," said she. "I will not get down until
we are there. We must cross the Rhône, you say? Press on, press
on!--Gallop! The gipsy loves the horse."

She would have none of his caresses except at the place appointed. She
would not submit to him until they should be where he was, by her
agency, in danger of death or suffering. A kiss under other
circumstances would be a triumph for him, and she gave herself to him
for her own pleasure alone. She desired to feel, in the interchange of
caresses, that the moisture of her lips was poison, that her bite
would cause death or madness.

Firmly seated _en croupe_, still clinging fast to the drover--her
victim--with her arm wound about him, her bare legs hanging in the
folds of her skirt which the wind raised as they sped along, with her
head thrown proudly back, she swayed gracefully with the rocking
motion of the gallop; and her face, which had a sallow look in the
moonlight against the neck of the man whom she was leading astray,
albeit she seemed to be carried away by him--her face was wreathed in
smiles.

When Herodias had obtained the head of John the Baptist, she lifted it
by the hair from the gold charger, whereon it lay with a circle of
blood around the neck, raised it to the level of her face, and after
gazing upon it with deep interest, examining the closed eyelids and
long lashes and the transparent pallor of the cheeks, she suddenly
placed her mouth upon that lifeless mouth and sought to force her
tongue between the lips to the cold teeth too tightly closed in death,
esteeming that kiss, inflicted on her dead foe, more delicious than
the incestuous caresses for which he had reproved her.

What was left of Renaud's suspicions of Zinzara, while she was smiling
in the darkness, and the warm breath from her lips was playing upon
his neck? He had ceased to reflect; he rode on. He willingly postponed
the longed-for hour, now that he was forced to go on. He thought no
more of violence. His happiness was secure. He could wait. In the
midst of the deserted plains, still warm from the sunlight though
refreshed by the night air, love came without calling, but he enjoyed
the anticipation more than anything he had known.--And then she might
escape him even now. He must be careful not to startle her. When they
reached the nest yonder, he would keep her there some time. And so he
rode on, inhaling the saline air of the desert, which was his--with
his stallion's four shoeless feet trampling through the sand and
water, which were his also--bound for the horizon, which would soon be
his.

Once, however, in the midst of a swamp, where the water was above his
horse's knees, he stopped again.

"What is it?" said she.

Renaud turned his head, and throwing himself back, called her with a
smacking of his lips.

"When I am ready!" said Zinzara in a mocking tone.

As she spoke, Blanchet leaped forward, with all four feet in the air,
and made a tremendous splashing in the water, which fell about their
heads in a heavy shower.

And, unseen by Renaud, the gipsy smiled against his neck, as she
replaced in her hair the long gold pin she had plunged into the
beast's flank.

Suddenly there was a shout of _Qui vive?_ directly in front of them,
so unexpected in the solitude, that Blanchet jumped again.

"_Qui vive?_" the voice repeated.

"The king!" Renaud replied gaily.

"Ah! is it you, Renaud?"

It was the revenue officers; but Renaud hurried by, at a safe
distance, so that they might not recognize the gitana.

They were near the salt spring of Badon. The rectangular heaps of salt
seemed like so many long, low houses, with sharp roofs. In its
shroud-like whiteness the spot resembled a little town, geometrically
laid out, asleep under dead snow.

They reached the shore of the main stream of the Rhône.

Zinzara was on the ground before Renaud had stopped his horse.

He alighted in his turn, and handed the rein to the gipsy. She held
Blanchet while he was drinking in the river.

"Now for some oats!" said Renaud.

He took a small sack that was fastened across his saddle-bow, from
holster to holster, and at Zinzara's suggestion emptied it into her
dress which she held up with both hands.

Poor, poor Blanchet! there was only a handful of grain.

"Wait for me; I'll go to find the boat."

Renaud disappeared in the darkness behind the reeds and willows that
grew along the bank, drowned in the mist, floating like pallid
spectres in the darkness.

Zinzara heard nothing save the plashing of the water, and the
crunching of the oats between Blanchet's teeth, as he swept them up
with his long lip from the hollow of the dress.--Oh! if Livette could
have seen that!

"Here I am, come!" said Renaud's voice.

He approached, raising the oars. She walked to the water's edge.

"Hold the reins fast. The horse will follow us."

She stepped into the boat and stood in the stern. Blanchet followed,
in the wake.

Renaud knew the current at that spot. He rowed diagonally across and
reached the other shore more than a hundred yards farther down.

He tied the boat to the trunk of a willow and tightened the girths,
and they were off again.

It was necessary to ascend the stream a long distance to find a place
to ford the canal that runs from Arles to Port-le-Bouc. When they had
crossed the canal, he said:

"We are almost there."

They had ridden nearly five hours.

His desires were approaching fruition. He was seized with the
impatience that comes with the last half-hour. He had a vision of what
was to come.

"It is in the _gargate_," he said. And he explained: "The _gargate_ is
like thickened water. It is about the same as mud. The cabin we are
going to is in the midst of one of these patches of mud. Ah! we shall
be well protected there, gitana, I promise you. A man once lived there
for a long while; a conscript who wanted to evade the draft. And
later, an escaped convict, a native of the neighborhood, who knew
about the place. No one could dislodge him there. Others know the
spot; but never fear, I have a way to fool them. Trust me, gitana, we
shall be well guarded there, by death hidden in the water around us!"

They reached their destination.

Renaud tied his horse to a tree, and took Zinzara's hand.

"Follow me," he said.

The moon was rising. With the end of a stick, he pointed out to her,
just above the surface of the water, the heads of the stakes, looming
black among the stalks of thorn-broom and reeds and the broad,
spreading leaves of the water-lily.

"Always step to the left of the stakes," he said; "they mark the
right-hand edge of the solid path just below the surface of the
water."

Renaud had taken off his shoes and stockings. She lifted her skirts
and walked with bare legs, and he held her hand. They walked thus for
some time. Her interest was aroused by her surroundings. The place
pleased her.

The water was disturbed a little here and there. She stopped and
watched.

"Turtles," said he; and added: "Here is the cabin."

The cabin stood in the midst of the bog, built on piles, as was the
path leading to it. Reeds and a few tamarisks surrounded it, and made
it invisible from almost every direction. On the gray, thatched roof,
shaped like a hay-stack, the little cross gleamed in the moonlight,
bent back as if the wind had tried to blow it down.

The back of the cabin was turned to the _mistral_. They entered.
Renaud took a candle from his wallet and struck a match. The light
danced upon the walls.

The low walls were of grayish mud, set in a rough frame-work. The
floor was covered with a bed of reeds. A cotton cloth, to keep out the
gnats, hung before the door. There was a stationary table against the
wall at the right, near the head of the bed; it was a flat stone
supported by four pieces of timber fastened to the floor.

Renaud set his candle down on the stone. The gitana, already seated on
the rough bed, watched him with a savage look in her eyes. She began
to feel that she was a little too much in his power, that it was a
little too much like being under his roof.

The cabin was like all the cabins in the district. From the ceiling
bunches of reed blossoms hung like waving silver plumes. The big
cross-timbers of the ceiling were pinned together with wooden pegs,
the large ends of which projected, and some few scraps of worn-out
clothes were still hanging from them. There was a fire-place in one
corner, made of large stones placed side by side, and in the roof,
directly above it, was a hole for the smoke.

Renaud hung his wallet on one of the pegs.

"Now, wait for me," he said, with a loud laugh, "I'm going out to
attend to the horse."

She was surprised, but after she had glanced at him, she could think
of nothing but Rampal.

He went out to Blanchet, removed the saddle and laid it on the ground,
then mounted him, bareback, and rode him to a pasture some distance
away, where he hobbled him and left him.

A quarter of an hour later, Renaud returned, with his saddle across
his shoulders, to the cabin where Zinzara was awaiting him. But, as he
walked along the solid path, a black ribbon covered by a sheet of
shallow water, he took up the stakes that marked one edge of the path,
and moved them from the right side to the left;--so that, if that
beggarly Rampal, the only man likely to follow him to that lair, chose
to come there, he certainly would not go far, but would remain there,
buried up to his neck at least!

When he had changed the position of the first twenty stakes, the only
ones visible from the shore of the bog, Renaud stood up and walked
swiftly toward the cabin. His heart at that moment was sad, and more
filled with slime and noxious things than the waters of the swamp,
which, though they glistened in the moonlight, were black beneath the
surface.



XXII

IN THE NEST


In the contracted cage, whose thatched roof, with its peak of red
tiles, shone in the moonlight amid the marsh plants, the two beasts of
the same species, Zinzara and Renaud, were shut up together.

"I am hungry," said she, in a hostile tone.

He took a tin box from his wallet and raised the cover; it contained
the wherewithal to support life; he cut the bread and uncorked the
bottle.

She ate silently, still with the savage look in her eyes. He waited
upon her, partaking also of the dry bread himself, and putting his
lips to the flat bottle, filled with the strong wine of the wild
grape.

When they had eaten, he handed her a small flask of brandy. She drank
from it, joyfully, and soon her eyes began to sparkle. He looked at
her, ready to embrace her. She answered him with a glance so mocking
and unfathomable, that he hesitated, waiting for he knew not what,
weary besides, and feeling that his brain was confused.

He saw her thereupon take her tambourine, which she wore fastened to
her belt by a small cord, under her dress; and she began to play upon
it. She was sitting on the bed. She struck regular, monotonous blows
upon the vibrating skin, and at every blow the charms depending from
the tambourine jangled noisily.

Then she began to sing outlandish words, in slow measure, beating time
with the tambourine. And this proceeding at length fascinated the
drover, who gazed at her, as completely under the spell as the lizard
listening to the locust in the sunshine on a summer's day.

This lasted an hour. He watched her, enchanted, proud, thinking of
nothing but her, and he felt his heart leap and quiver in his breast
at every touch upon the tambourine.

But one would have said that she had drawn about herself a circle that
he could not cross. He waited until the circle should be broken. He
was like one of the great dogs trained to guard droves of bulls; that
are so fearless of blows from the horns of their charges, but sit
obediently by watching their master at his meals, waiting for the
crumb he tosses them, slaves of the king, of their god, who is man.

She had now the effect upon him of a genuine queen, a queen in some
fairy tale, with her studied attitudes accompanied by the monotonous
music, which was accentuated by the ceaseless motion of the sequins of
her crown of copper against her swarthy brow and the dead black of
her hair.

Suddenly she laid her tambourine aside. He started toward her. She
held him back with a stern glance, and snatching away the silk
handkerchief that covered her shoulders, appeared before him in a rich
waist of many colors; and he saw upon her breast necklaces of gold
pieces--her fortune.

"Await my pleasure," said she. "Leave me in peace a moment."

She covered her head with the ample handkerchief she had taken off and
remained hidden behind that veil for a moment. Renaud heard her
muttering unfamiliar words--_mormô_, _gorgô_--words of sorcery,
without doubt.

When she threw back her veil, she was laughing.

What vision had the sorceress evoked? what had the seer seen?

"It will be better than I hoped!" said she. "Now, look!"

She rose, and to the accompaniment of the jangling of the sequins in
her diadem and the gold pieces of her necklace, set in motion by her
slow dance, in the course of which she did not move from where she
stood, she removed her garments, one by one.

By the flickering light of the candle, that waved back and forth as a
breath of air came in through the door, Renaud watched the familiar
vision reappear.

Zinzara swayed this way and that as she unfastened, one after
another, her waist, her skirts--and took them off, bending gracefully
forward and backward, raising her arms above her head or lowering them
to her ankles. And now you would have said it was a bronze statue,
glistening in the half-darkness. Renaud knew that figure well, from
having seen it one day in the bright sunlight, and so many, many times
since then, in his imagination.

The necklace tinkled upon her swelling breasts; several large rings
were around her ankles, and upon her brow, the crown from which the
trinkets hung.

She turned and twisted gracefully about, her dark skin gleaming like a
mirror.

"You see," said she, "Zinzara gives herself, no man takes her, romi.
The wild girl belongs to no one but herself. And even now I could, if
I chose, nail you where you stand, forever!"

As she spoke, she threw down upon her clothes a keen-edged stiletto
that had gleamed for an instant in her hand.

"Come!" said she.

They lay, side by side, on the floor of that hovel, upon the crackling
reeds.

At that moment, he looked into the depths of her eyes, and he saw
there vague things by which he had already on several occasions been
profoundly alarmed. The gitana's hidden purpose, as to which she
herself had no clear idea, flickered uncertainly in her glance,
making its presence felt, but giving no hint by which it could be
divined.

Her smile, which was ordinarily visible only at the corner of her
mouth, had spread, more unfathomable than ever, over her whole face,
which wore an expression of triumphant mockery. More mysterious she
appeared and more desirable. If Renaud had been familiar with the
carved stone animals that lie sleeping in the Egyptian desert, he
would have recognized their expression, an expression that words
cannot describe, upon the speaking face that gazed at him and called
him.

And, lo! the hatred he had once before felt for that face, for that
glance, returned swiftly, imperiously, to his mind; an irresistible
desire to seize the woman by the neck and choke her with cruel,
unyielding hands.

Even that feeling was love, for otherwise it would have occurred to
him to part abruptly from the sorceress, to fly from her; that thought
would have come to him, once at least, and it did not come. On the
contrary, he felt that he could not really possess her except by some
violence of that sort. Is it not true that mares look upon bites as
caresses?--She saw the thought in his eyes, and began to laugh.

Again she recognized distinctly, and with delight, the brute like
herself that she had aroused in him. And she did it to demonstrate her
power to subdue the brute, with a look.

"Oh! you may!" she said, with a smile.

As she spoke, he caught a rapid glimpse of the part she was to play
in his destiny: the pollution of his life, the loss of real happiness,
of all repose, and the false love--the strongest of all passions.

Their glances, laden with amorous hate, met and struck fire like
knife-blades.

He seized her around the neck and was very near choking her in good
earnest; he thought that he would strangle her. "Come, come!" she said
in a languishing voice; but, suddenly feeling the pressure of the hand
that was really squeezing her throat, she leaped up at him, and, with
a strangled laugh, hurled her mouth at his and bit his lips. They
could hear their teeth clash. He uttered a cry which was at once
stifled, for their angry lips had no sooner met than they were
appeased.

She gazed at him for a long while, looking always into his eyes. She
saw them more than once grow dim and sightless, and then, exulting in
the thought of this wild bull's weakness in her hands, she laughed
silently; but no emotion dimmed the brightness of her eyes. Suddenly,
when he had grown calmer, a profound sigh caused him to look with more
attention at the savage creature he had conquered at last. A pallor as
of the other world overspread her swarthy face; her features were
distended. She was no longer smiling. The wrinkle that ordinarily
raised one corner of her lips and gave her an air of mockery had
vanished. The corners of her mouth, on the other hand, drooped a
little, imparting a sad expression to her face. One would have said
she was a different being. There was no trace of animation upon her
features. She no longer belonged to herself. An attack of vertigo had
taken away her power of thought. She was like a drowned woman drifting
with the tide. Something as everlasting as death had proved stronger
than she.

As if from the midst of one of those dreams which, in a second, open
eternity to our gaze, she returned to herself with amazement.

The snake-charmer realized that she had been defeated in a way she was
unaccustomed to; she experienced a curious sensation of shame, a sort
of proud regret that she had forgotten herself as never before.--And
was he, without even suspecting the trap she had set for him,
tranquilly to carry off the gratification of his passion with which
she had baited the trap? In that case she would have betrayed herself!
She would be the victim of her detested lover! of Livette's
betrothed!--The mere thought was intolerable to her. And in a frenzy
of rage and humiliation she put out her hand and felt among her
clothes that lay in a pile near by, for the stiletto she had
insolently thrown upon them just before.

Renaud understood only one thing; the beast was becoming ugly again!
He seized her wrists and held her arms to the ground, crossed above
her head, and then he began to laugh in his turn.

Her insane rage came to the surface; she writhed about and tried to
bite, but could not. She felt that her power was gone, that she was in
the hands of one stronger than herself. Without understanding her, he
felt that she was dangerous and he mastered her. The Christian had her
in his power! It was too much. She felt her eyes bursting with the
tears that were ready to gush forth, but she forced them back. A
little foam appeared at the corner of her mouth.

"Dog!" she exclaimed.

At that, the man whose face she saw above her own, bending over and
rising again quickly, touched her lips with his. And he had the
feeling that the hand that grasped the stiletto relaxed its hold.

At that moment, a wailing cry rent the air above the cabin, then
ceased abruptly, before it had died away in the distance, as if the
bird that uttered that signal of distress had lighted among the reeds
near at hand, and had at once become mute.

Renaud took his eyes from the gitana's face.

"What is that?" said he.

"A curlew flying over!" she replied, without moving.--"The curlew goes
south in winter."

Renaud was on his feet, pale as death.

"King," said she, "do you love your queen? Then look at her!"

And, as she lay upon her back, she began to make her snake-like body
undulate and gleam like a mirror, keeping time with her tambourine,
which she held above her head.

The bursts of laughter with which she punctuated the outlandish music
displayed her glistening teeth from end to end.

"Come back here," she said, "are you afraid?"

He was ashamed, and, returning to the straw pallet, resumed his rôle
of subjugated watch-dog in love with a she-wolf.

In that one night, the young man felt the whole power of his youth,
learned more of life and realized more dreams than many real kings.

The pleasures of love are no greater to the prince than to the
charcoal-burner.

The day was breaking. Bands of violet along the horizon changed to
pink and then to yellow. An awakening breeze passed like a shiver over
the desert of sand and water, entered the cabin, and blew out the
flickering light on the stone table.

A cock in the distance welcomed the dawn.

Thereupon, Renaud started to go to find his horse. The wallet was
empty, too.

"At the Icard farm," said he, "I can get what I need."

"Do you suppose," said she, "that I intend to stay here all day like a
captive goose?"

"Is it all over, then?" said he, "and are you going away, too?"

"To return may be a pleasure," said she, "but to remain is always a
bore."

She hummed in the gipsy language:

    "God gave thy mare no rein, Romichâl."

"If you choose," she continued, "we will ride together till night. My
horse has wings."

"Very good," said Renaud. "Do you cross over to solid ground first. We
will go together and get my horse. It will be a fine day."

"And a good one! be sure of that!" said she, in her jerky voice, her
voice which resembled _another's_.

He went with her as far as the first of the stakes he had displaced,
to point out the safe road to her, and when he saw her reach the edge
of the swamp sixty feet beyond, he stooped and began to put the stakes
in place one by one as he walked toward the firm ground.

When he reached the last, he sprang to his feet with haggard eyes.

Livette, with head thrown back, face turned toward the sky, eyes
closed, mouth open, and grass mingled with her straying hair, was
lying among the water-lilies, as if asleep, and in the throes of a bad
dream. He also saw her two little clenched hands, above the water,
clinging to the reeds.

Transformed for a moment to a statue, Renaud soon aroused himself,
and, bending over Livette, put his hands under her armpits. The poor
body, buried in the thick, black ooze, came slowly forth, torn from
its bed like the smooth stalk of a lily.

When he had the poor body in his arms, inert and cold, perhaps
dead,--the body of the poor, dear child, whose skirts, entangled in a
net-work of long grasses, clung tightly to her dangling legs,--Renaud
suddenly uttered a roar as of an enraged wild beast, and ran like a
madman at the top of his speed to the nearest farm-house.



XXIII

THE PURSUIT


One forgives only those whom one loves; only those who love forgive.
Love at its apogee is naught but the power of inspiring forgiveness
and bestowing it; and the social laws, which are of the mechanism of
human justice, seem to have realized that fact, since they ignore the
testimony of all those who would naturally be expected to love the
culprit.

Sympathy is simply a laying aside--in favor of those we love--of the
implacable severity which we use but little in dealing with ourselves,
and which attributes to those who pass judgment an unerring wisdom
which is not human, or a self-confidence which is too much so.

Livette, as she lay sick upon the best bed in the Icard farm-house,
already had, in her sorrowing heart, an adorable feeling of indulgence
for Renaud, which would have made the blessed maidens who laid the
Crucified One in his shroud, smile with joy in the mystic heaven of
the lofty chapel. She believed that she would die by her fiancé's
fault, and she pitied him. Forgiveness sooner or later redeems him
who receives, and consoles him who accords it. In the sentiment of
compassion is hidden the divine future of mankind.

Renaud was still ignorant of Livette's indulgence. Indeed, he could
not deserve it until he had come to look upon himself as forever
unworthy.

For the moment, he had not gone to the bottom of the hell of evil
thoughts.

When he found Livette half drowned in the _gargate_, his first
impulse, born of true love and pity for her, in absolute forgetfulness
of himself, lasted but an instant--but it had existed. Renaud at first
suffered for her and for her alone.

His second impulse, almost immediate, and praiseworthy still, although
there was a touch of selfishness in it, was to condemn himself,
through fear of moral responsibility. Had he not with his own hand
displaced the stakes that marked the path, with the idea, indefensible
at best, that Rampal would be misled by that treacherous method of
defence? Yes, almost immediately after he uttered his cry of agony, he
shuddered with terror at the thought of the remorse that was in store
for him, as soon as he felt that Livette was like a dead woman in his
arms.

When he had given her in charge of the women at the main farm-house of
the Icard farm, where there was great excitement over such an
adventure at that time of day, he questioned two old peasant-women who
knew more than all the doctors in the province. After doing what was
necessary for Livette, they cheerfully declared that the poor girl
would not die of it; they even said that it was "nothing at all." He
did not even try to understand how she had come so far to fall into
the trap!

She would not die! That was the essential thing at that moment. What a
relief _to him_, for he was already accusing himself of his little
sweetheart's death! He had been so afraid! And it turned out to be
only a warning! God be praised, and blessed be the mighty saints who
had performed such a miracle!

But the devil rejoiced when he looked into Renaud's conscience, for he
saw the course his ideas were about to take, a course that would lead
him from bad to worse.

Reassured as to Livette,--and as to himself,--he flew into a passion
with the accursed gitana, the indirect cause, at least, of all this
misery.

"Ah! the beggar! I will kill her!--it will be easy to find her again.
She can't be far away--I will kill her!"

His wrath took full possession of him--he ran for his horse. Kill
her!--kill her! Nothing could be more righteous.--And he went about
it.

Poor Renaud! the victim of all the involuntary falsehoods which,
starting from ourselves, one engendering another, sometimes render the
best of us irresponsible and drive us on to disaster when passion
makes us mad.

This chain, often undiscoverable, of false but specious reasons with
which men deceive themselves, each fitting into the last without
violence, each explaining and justifying the one that follows
it--leads insensibly to acts incomprehensible to him who is not able
to follow it back, link by link. It is the chain of FATALITY, in which
the links, consisting of trifling but suggestive facts, of decisive
circumstances, unknown sometimes to the culprit, alternate with the
fictitious good motives he has invented for his own benefit in the
reflex movements of his mind. To re-establish the logical sequence of
facts, of sensations suddenly transformed into ideas, is the work of
equity which reasons, or of love which divines. In default of tracing
back the chain of insensible, imperious transitions, we find between
the criminal who has long been an honest man and his crime, the abyss
at sight of which fools and unthinking folk, filled with the pride of
implacable sinners, never fail to exclaim: "It is monstrous!" But if
God, infinite Love, does exist, everything is forgiven, because
everything is understood; there are, mayhap, simply the miserable
wretches on one side, and divine pity on the other.

Yes, Renaud would have killed the sorceress, with savage joy, to
avenge Livette. But was not that desire, which he deemed a
praiseworthy one, simply a pretext for seeking her out again that same
day, for seeing her once more?--That, at all events, is what the devil
himself thought as he crouched on the floor of the crypt in the
church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, on the spot occupied the day
before by the dark-browed gipsies, beneath the shrine of Saint Sara.

And so, mounted upon Blanchet, Renaud galloped furiously away upon his
tracks of the night, intending to kill Zinzara.

Livette would not die!--That idea caused him great joy, so great that
he was no sooner out-of-doors, away from the painful, wearisome
spectacle of the poor unconscious child, than he yielded, alas! to the
influence of the bright sunlight, and breathed at ease. He had already
ceased to think of Livette's sufferings. His satisfaction had already
ceased to be anything more than selfishness: not only would he not
have to reproach himself for her death, but, more than that, now that
she knew everything, was he not absolved, as it were? There was
nothing more for him to fear. The worst that could happen had
happened! And he actually felt as if a weight had been taken from his
shoulders, as if he were once more sincere in his dealings with
Livette, a better man, in short, thanks to what had happened. Although
he did not reason this out, the thought went through his mind. It was
what he felt. For everything serves the passion of love; it turns to
its own profit the very things that would naturally tend most to
thwart it. Moreover, he need feel no qualms of conscience, as he was
going to chastise the malignant creature, to kill her, in fact:--a
vile race!

No, she could not be far away. Doubtless, if she had planned the
catastrophe, she had concealed herself near at hand to see the result.

He rode back toward the bridge over the canal. No one had seen the
gipsy there. He descended the Rhône to the spot where they had left
the boat the night before. The boat was in the same place, fastened by
the same knot.

He began to fear that he might not find her. But when, after searching
two hours, he was certain of it, he was much surprised to find that he
did not feel the righteous wrath of the officer of justice at the
thought of a culprit eluding the vengeance of the law, but the sudden
distress of a betrayed lover. He did not cry to himself: "I shall not
have the pleasure of punishing her!" but: "I shall never see her
again!" And that cry burst forth in his heart as a fierce revelation
of unpardonable, pitiless love. What! he loved her! he loved her! and
he learned it for the first time at that moment! he admitted it to
himself for the first time!--yes, beyond cavil he loved her--_now_!
His heart failed him. He was bewildered. He felt a vague sense of
well-being, due to the mere joy of loving, marred by a feeling of
intense chagrin at the thought of the certain misery that lay before
him. He was horrified at himself, and, at the same moment, decided
upon his future course in a frenzy of excitement.

The physical power of love is superb and appalling. It stops at
nothing. And the man who is watching beside the dying or the dead,
even though it be some one who is dear to him, feels a thrill of joy
rush to his heart, if the being he loves with all the force of his
youth passes by.

Renaud had just held Livette almost dying in his arms, and already he
had no regret save for the other, for the woman he should have
trampled under his feet!

Thereupon, all the events of the night returned to his mind, and
finished the work of poisoning. He could not be reconciled to the
thought that he should never again see what he had had for so short a
time. No, it could not be at an end. If she were a criminal, why then
he would love her in her crime, that was all! The black bull was
loose.--But Livette? aha! Livette? a swan's feather, or a red
flamingo's, under his horse's hoof.

What was the placid affection the young maid had inspired in his heart
compared to the frenzy of sorrow and joy the other caused him to feel?
Sorrow and joy combined, that is what love is; and the love men prefer
is not that which contains the greater joy as compared to the keener
sorrow--it is that in which those emotions are most intense. It was
that law of passion to whose operation Renaud was now being subjected.
He realized that he had definitely chosen the other, the gipsy,
despite the cry of his outraged sense of honor.

That cry of his honest heart, to which he no longer lent a willing
ear, he still heard, do what he would, and he suffered half
consciously, for many reasons which he did not distinguish one from
another, but which resulted in producing a confused feeling in his own
mind that he was a monster.

A monster! for now that he considered the matter more carefully, it
became his settled conviction that the gitana had intended to kill
Livette--and yet it was that same gitana that he loved!

Ah! the witch!--She had certainly seen Livette, her poor little head,
like a dead woman's, lying on the water among the grass, her mouth
open for the last cry for help, her teeth glistening with water in the
sunlight! She could not have helped seeing her.--And she had passed
her by without a word!--It was because she was determined to be her
ruin. She had evidently led her into the trap. How? What did it
matter! but it was no longer possible to doubt that it was the fact.

But in that case--if she was really guilty--there could be no doubt,
either, that having seen her desire accomplished, she had fled. She
would appear no more! he would have no opportunity to kill her! he
would never see her again! And the thing that moved him most deeply in
connection with Livette's misfortune was the thought that it involved
Zinzara's flight. He tried in vain to put away the abominable regret;
it returned upon him like a wave. What! he should never see her again!

Oh! those caresses of the night before in the cabin of the swamp were
clinging to his arms and legs like serpents. They twined about his
body as creeping plants about the branches of the tamarisk, or as one
eel about another: biting at his heart. And he shivered from head to
foot.

"Ah! the witch!" he repeated. "Ah! the witch! What! never again!"

Never again!--Why, did he not think that night that he should be able
to keep her on his island; that it would last a year at least, until
the next year's fêtes; that he would have the wild beast to himself in
the desert, in his wild beast's lair--all to himself, with her lithe,
graceful body, her ankle-rings and bracelets, and her beggar queen's
crown?

But did she not love him? Had it all been mere trickery and craft on
her part?

The horse's blood flowed freely under the drover's spurs; but the
horseman's heart was bleeding within him a thousand times more
cruelly.

All mere trickery and craft! He repeated it again and again to
himself, and would not believe it.

That she was false to the core, he firmly believed, and, by dint of
thinking about it, soon ceased to believe it. That would have been too
horrible, really! His self-pity and the feeling that he must be proud
of her forced back the thought, which, driven away for a moment,
returned again at once with more force as a sure, proven, established
fact. It returned like a flash of light which hurt his eyes. Yes, yes,
she was false to the core! yes, from pure wantonness the woman had
deceived him again and again since the day of the bath, when she
exhibited her naked body to him with the deliberate purpose of leading
him astray, of leaving him, some day, stranded in the desert, without
his fiancée, without his love--alone.

And he struggled desperately to see her again--in his memory at
least--in order to question her crafty features, but, try as he would,
his mind was unable to restore the picture, drowned as it was beneath
a wavering, irritating mist. He opened his eyes to their fullest
extent, as if, by causing them to express a fixed determination to see
her again, he could compel her to appear before him in flesh and
blood. And he no longer saw the trees or the moor that lay before him,
or the sky or the horizon, but neither did he see her whose image he
sought to evoke. Then he suddenly closed his eyes, and for a brief
second--in the darkness--he caught a glimpse of her. Was it really
she? He had not time to recognize her. Once, however, the image became
clearer, and he _saw_ her; but still it was only a shadowy face, still
veiled with falsehood and impenetrable to him.

  [Illustration: Chapter XXIII

    _She went to the farther end of the Allée des Alyscamps,
    between the rows of tall poplars, amid the stone monuments,
    and lighted a fire of twigs, to give her light enough to look
    about and select a spot where she could sleep comfortably._]

What he was seeking was her real face, WHICH DID NOT EXIST, for a face
is the expression of a soul, and she had no soul. Had she ever loved
him? that is what he would have liked to ascertain, if nothing
more. Had she smiled on Rampal? Perhaps--God! could it be
possible? Who knows? Of what was she not capable to consummate her
crime?--And yet he secretly admired her for the extraordinary perfidy
he attributed to her. The Saracen blood, the blood of heathen pirates,
did not flow in his veins for nothing.

Yes, indeed, if, in her hate-inspired work, she had had need of
Rampal, with whom he had several times seen her talking, was it not
possible that she had given herself to him in order to make him
absolutely submissive to her will? What was he thinking of? Given
herself to him? No, not that!--Not in its fullest meaning, at all
events--but she might have let him steal a kiss--a long kiss,
perhaps--from her lips. And the herdsman felt the keen point of the
spear of jealousy pierce his heart.

He thought and thought, feverish with passion, excited by his
excessive exertions for several days past, and he rode through the
fields and swamps, amid the grass and stones of Crau, surrounded by
buzzing insects maddened by the heat, which was terrible.

Great God! only the night before, he had believed that she had a
veritable woman's passion for him, a passion like those he had often
aroused in women, with his strength, his courage, and his prowess as
horse-breaker and cavalier. And as she was the daughter of a free
race, and queen of her tribe, he had been proud of his conquest. He
had straightened himself up in his saddle, like a crowned king,
conqueror in many battles. He had handled his spear with a firmer
hand. He had glanced proudly at the other drovers, his comrades, with
a distinct feeling that he was "better than they," since this savage
queen, who, in her travels, had doubtless seen so many brave and
comely men, had chosen him--even though he were not the first!--that
she, whom the laws of her people forbade to love a European dog, the
slave of cities, had chosen him, the drover of Camargue!

Now that that happiness was gone from him, he suddenly realized its
value. An immense void lay before him. For the first time, the desert
seemed a melancholy place to him, too vast, too bare. He realized that
henceforth his whole life would lie in the past. He was no longer the
king! He would never be the king again! She had never loved him! And
she had pretended that she did!

But when she had cried out and turned pale in his arms, had she not
forgotten that she was acting a lie? If that were so, she must be very
sure of finding elsewhere such ardent caresses as his, from another.
Otherwise she would not have fled, for he scouted the idea that she
was afraid. Such a one as she could have no fear! And if, as he
thought the night before, he had really taken her fancy, would she not
have remained, guilty or not, to enjoy his caresses anew, even though
she were to die of them?

But she would not have died of them! She, sorceress as she was, must
have known that he would have forgiven everything. Therefore she had
_wanted_ to go. She cared nothing for him. If, on the other hand, it
had pleased her to keep him with her, to continue their liaison, she
would have found a way to do it, in spite of everything. She had only
to desire to do it. She did not _desire_!--Even so, he desired her!

He rode away at headlong speed. He must find her again. Then they
would see! And he circled round the cabin in the swamp like a hawk,
examining all the clumps of thorn-broom, all the tamarisks and reeds.
Oh! he would find her!

He had been riding for several hours, and he began to feel that his
quest was useless. If she were outside the limits of the last greater
circle that he had described in his search for her, it was all over!
he was too late.

At last, convinced of his discomfiture, he leaped from his horse and
seated himself on the sloping bank of a ditch. It was near midday. He
was neither hungry nor thirsty, but the sun told him that it was
midday.

The gnats were humming about his ears, devouring him, riddling the
hide of his horse, who hung his head and sniffed at a tuft of salt
grass without eating it, pulling a little upon the rein which Renaud,
still seated, held loosely in his hand.

Renaud was looking straight before him, and now that he was assured of
his misfortune, now that he had neither betrothed nor mistress,
neither present nor future, he felt that he was becoming cold and
hard, and was astonished to find it so. It seemed to him as if his
misfortune had happened to a piece of wood or stone. The wood and the
stone were himself. How could he have had such dread of the certainty
that had come to him at last? While he had that dread, he still hoped
and suffered. Now that all was said, he found that he was insensible
to it all--dead, in a measure. And that gratified him.

He who had wept so bitterly the night that he tried to put aside his
nascent passion, now, in this final catastrophe, which should have
called forth all the tears in his body, felt as if the springs had run
dry. Instead of being more deeply moved than ever, he found that he
was strangely composed, as if armed against fate.--He received the
blow like a soldier, like a drover. His tranquillity became more
pronounced and more extraordinary as the excessive severity of the
disaster became more certain.

Tranquillity for an hour, perhaps! But what did that matter? He had no
suspicion of it. He found that he was strong in the face of disaster.
Ah! she could make up her mind to go? She was laughing at me? Very
good! I have no need of her, the vagabond! I have seen through the
sorceress! I know her, I know her! Good-evening!

He rose, to return home. As he raised his head, he saw the
gitana--five hundred yards ahead of him.--Her back was turned to him,
and she was walking tranquilly along.

In a twinkling, he was in the saddle. "Stop!" Blanchet, smarting under
a blow from the stirrup-leather, flew over the ground, making the sand
and stones fly, snorting with wrath as the spur tore his flank. In
four minutes they made half a league. The gipsy, still in front, with
her back turned to them, walked quietly along. It was her orange
handkerchief, her copper crown, her undulating gait. It was certainly
she!

Suddenly, when she reached the shore of a pond, she walked out, with
the same tranquil step, upon the surface of the water, which bore her
weight as if it were covered with ice; while, not far away, a large
brig, decked out with flags, was bearing down upon him, with all sail
set, through the furze-bushes and prickly oaks of Crau, across the
arid fields.

Renaud sadly hung his head. The brig explained it all. It was all a
spectre due to the mirage! Discouragement came upon the man and
crushed him.

Thus, all the strength he had expended, his shameful acceptance of
such a love, his toilsome day of fruitless search, after the mad ride
of the preceding night, the exhaustion of horse and rider, all came to
an end in the endless trickery of the mirage!

The sorceress must be far away! And in what direction? There was
nothing for him to do but abandon the pursuit. He retraced his steps
to the Icard farm. The fruitlessness of the effort affected him more
keenly than the effort itself.

He no longer looked about, he no longer thought, he no longer loved or
hated. Weariness had suddenly fallen upon his shoulders and his loins
like a weight too heavy to be borne. He rode on, bent almost double,
swaying like an inert thing, with the motion of his horse. He felt as
if he were falling from a great height in a sort of sick man's dream.
His eyes, worn out with gazing over the fields and scrutinizing every
bush, closed in spite of him. His nerveless hand knew not where the
reins were; nor did his brain know what had become of his ideas.

Blanchet went forward mechanically, with his head almost touching the
ground. He, too, was without will-power, overdone, exhausted, his eyes
injected with blood; his breath was short and quick, and his flanks
beat the charge.

At another time, the careful horseman, who loved his beasts, would
very quickly have noticed that his horse's wind was broken, when he
felt his sides rise and fall with that short, hard, jerky breath; but
Renaud was conscious of nothing. There was nothing in his head but a
burning void. He did not even long for shade or rest. He was suffering
from the utter dejection that follows terrible crises, from the great
sorrow caused by death, from hopeless despair. Overwhelmed as he was
by his selfish weariness, if he had been capable of recognizing any
sentiment in his mind, he would have found there a vague, cowardly
feeling of annoyance at having to enter a sick-chamber, at having to
witness the spectacle of Livette's suffering. He would have liked--but
he had not the strength to do it--to dismount from his horse, to lie
down in the fresh air, under a tamarisk, and sleep there a long, long
time; to forget himself, to cease to see or speak or hear or listen or
exist!--He was like one walking in his sleep.

Suddenly Blanchet stopped, and began to tremble in every limb, and,
before his rider had come to his senses, his four legs, planted
stiffly like stakes, seemed to be broken by a single blow, and he fell
in a heap.

Renaud awoke, standing on his feet beside his fallen horse. Blanchet
was dying. It was soon over. The honest creature opened, to an
unnatural width, his great glazed eyes, green as the stagnant water in
the swamps, and filled with that wondering expression which the
infinite mystery of living or of having lived imparts to the gaze of
little children, animals, and dying men; he straightened out his four
legs, trembling like the reeds in the marshes. A shiver ran over his
whole body, riddled with the stings of a myriad of gnats and great
flies, some of which flew up into the air and settled down again in
the corners of the dim, wide-open eyes. Then the poor creature became
motionless, with an indefinable something that was alarming and
terrible in his immobility, something that put joy to flight, that
seemed to imply finality. It was death. Blanchet had ended his humble
Camarguese life in the open desert, in the bright sunlight. Livette's
horse was dead in the service of Renaud's passion for Zinzara!

The faithful beast did not know what had happened; he did not know the
reason of the forced journeys, the multiplied wounds inflicted by
Renaud's spurs, by the stings of the gadflies, and by Zinzara's pin,
buried in his flesh; he had submitted, without a murmur, to the
destiny that bade him suffer at the hands of those who might have made
life pleasanter for him, and, as he lay dead, his eyes still expressed
his endless amazement at his failure to understand what was expected
of him.

It was all over. He was dead. The affectionate creature had fallen a
victim to the violence and malignity of human passions. Man had
betrayed him for a woman's sake. And now his graceful form, made for
swift movement, was infinitely sad to see, because the eye could see
clearly all that there was in its immobility contrary to the purpose
for which it was designed--and irreparable.

Renaud gazed stupidly at him.--He saw again, like so many reproachful
words, Blanchet's last look, his short, rapid breath, the shudder that
ran over his bleeding skin. And, restored to his senses by this
unforeseen catastrophe which awoke a thousand salutary thoughts in his
mind, he felt his heart grow soft. He burst into tears.

Thus Blanchet served his mistress still by his death. "Everything is
of some use," said Sigaud.

Renaud stooped and returned, upon his still warm nostrils, the kiss he
had received from him on the day of his first despair; then, having
removed the saddle and bridle and concealed them in a safe place, he
returned on foot to the Icard farm, with an intense, affectionate
desire to do his utmost to care for and comfort poor Livette, for the
death of her horse brought him back to her more quickly than anything
else could have done.

He promised himself that he would return and bury Blanchet, but he did
not have time. The good horse belonged to the vulture and the eagle.

In the evening of that same day, while Livette, sleeping soundly,
seemed to everybody to be out of danger,--while Renaud lay, like a
dog, in front of her door, determined to defend and save her,--Zinzara
arrived at the Alyscamps at Arles.

There, thinking that Renaud might, with the devil's assistance,
succeed in overtaking her,--although she may have had her reasons for
thinking that his horse was not in condition for service at that
time,--she left her house on wheels, in order that she might not be
taken by surprise therein like a wild beast in its lair,--not from
fear, but because she was desirous, before all else, not to see him
again. She went to the farther end of the Allée des Alyscamps, between
the rows of tall poplars, amid the stone monuments, and lighted a
fire of twigs, to give her light enough to look about and select a
spot where she could sleep comfortably.

She went there late, when the lovers who congregate there on May
evenings, to make love upon the tombs, had returned to the sleeping
city.

Along the whole length of the avenue, between the tall, straight
poplars, run two rows of sarcophagi, some very high, with massive
lids, others low and without lids, with a few scattered blossoms, sown
by the wind, at the bottom. The dead who once slept there were sent
down to Arles in sealed urns, abandoned to the current of the Rhône by
the cities farther up the river. Now flowers are springing from their
dust; and their open tombs are nothing more than beds for vagabonds
and lovers.

By the bright light of her fire, which cast her shadow, enormously
exaggerated, upon the wall of the ruined chapel, Zinzara selected her
couch. She tossed an armful of grass and leaves upon the bottom of a
sarcophagus; and, while the nightingale, who builds his nest there
every year, was singing for dear life, the strange creature slept
peacefully, with her face to the sky, trusting in her destiny; and, as
a ray of moonlight fell upon her calm face with its closed eyelids,
the sorceress resembled her black mummy, which concealed and idealized
corruption--embalmed beneath a golden mask.



XXIV

IN THE GARGATE


When he received Zinzara's message from the gipsy child, Rampal, who
was still suffering from his fall of a few days before, did not think
of going in person to surprise Renaud. He did better than that. He
went at once to Livette, and told her of the rendezvous at the cabin.

"Your lover, Livette, who defends you so fiercely against a harmless
kiss, is with a woman to-night--you ought to be able to guess who she
is--in the Conscript's Hut, near the Icard farm."

As Livette stood aghast, with pale cheeks, he continued:

"Your father has good horses; if you want to see for yourself, you
can. It will be worth your while."

"Thanks, Rampal," said Livette.

Not for an instant did she doubt the truth of what he told her, and
she said to her father:

"Go with me to the Icard farm, father, as you know the people there.
Let us go to the Icard farm at once; my happiness depends on it.
There is something there that I want to see to-morrow morning."

The poor man did not understand, but he always yielded to her caprice.
They set out at once for the Château d'Avignon.

They left the wagon at the château; they harnessed the best pair of
horses to the cabriolet, and made seven or eight leagues without
stopping.

"Thanks, father. I must be here to-morrow morning. I will tell you
why----"

It was eleven o'clock at night.

When all were in bed, Livette, being familiar with "the place," which
her father had pointed out to her anew at her request,--Livette
furtively left the house to prowl about the spot where disaster
awaited her, for love knows no obstacles, and we follow our destiny
through everything, and rush on to death in pursuit of our last
sorrow.

And then?--Ah! throughout the visions of her sick-bed Livette
constantly lived over that terrible moment when she was prowling
around the swamp. In truth, she was still there, in agony of mind.

About the swamp, in the darkness, Livette hovered like a sea-gull in
distress. Like a lost soul from hell she flitted about the edges of
the bog, trying to pierce with her gaze the dark clumps of reeds and
tamarisks.

From time to time, according to the spot from which she looked, she
could see the gray roof of the cabin, silvered by the moonlight.

Was any one there? Had Rampal told her the truth? Ought she to lose
this opportunity of convincing herself with her own eyes of Renaud's
treachery?

Should she give her life to a traitor without endeavoring to unmask
him, although warned? With her widely dilated eyes, she imagined that
she saw lights that did not exist; or--if she did really see a feeble
gleam through the chinks in the door--she refused to believe her eyes.

The blood was tingling in her ears, and she thought she could hear
voices. It seemed to her at times as if her head were bursting. She
could see, inside her head, beneath her skull, a great white light,
and in the centre of the light Renaud and the gipsy together. Oh! to
think of not finding out!

And, if it should be so, what should she do?

The essential thing was to find out. Afterward, she would see. If she
were strong enough, if she could do it--she would certainly kill the
woman.--How? Livette did not know. Simply with a look, perhaps.--Madness
rises from the swamps with the miasmatic exhalations at night. Livette
felt that she was going mad.

"How do you get to the cabin?" she had asked her father.

Ah! yes, the path is marked by stakes, is it not? To the left of the
stakes is the path. She cannot see the tops of the stakes in the dark
water. Frogs were sitting on them, perhaps, to look at the moon; or
turtles on those that were just level with the surface. But no, it was
grass that covered them all. And Livette's eyes ached with her
endeavors to open them wider in the darkness, and find some sign upon
the indistinct objects about her.

But suppose Rampal had deceived her?

At one time, it seemed to her that she could hear something resembling
the gipsy music that made the snakes dance--but so weak! Surely it was
in her poor, tired head,--for if it had been the real music, all the
reptiles in the swamp would have come out to dance, all at once, in
the moonlight.

Bah! Why should she be afraid? As if there were so very many of the
creatures in the country! They are not fond of the salt in the bogs,
nor the high winds.

She hovered about the swamp like a sea-gull lost at sea!

"Yes, yes, this is the way, here is the path under the water and the
stakes that mark it! I must keep the stakes at my right as I walk
along."

She starts to take the first step, and dares not--but suddenly the
sound of voices comes to her ears. She distinguishes two
voices--two!--beyond any question. And now it is surely the metallic
sound of the tambourine that floats through the reeds in the
moonlight, bringing to her heart the frightful vision of the other's
joy!

She will go. After all, since her unhappiness is certain, what matter
if she die of it! Ah! how bitter would be his punishment if, on coming
out, at daybreak, he should find her there, drowned!

She makes a step; she sinks! but she does not cry out. No, she will
extricate herself unaided--she must. She clings to the long grass, to
the reeds which break in her hands. She is sinking! Ah! God! is she to
die there? They would be too well pleased, aye, both of them, to have
caused her death! Therefore she must not die! She will not! She
struggles, and sinks deeper. As she lifts one foot, she rests her
weight on the other, which goes down, down, and the ooze gains upon
her. It rises to her waist; and still she cannot refrain from raising
her feet, one after the other, as if to climb an imaginary stairway,
the solid ladder that she dreams of but cannot find!

With every upward effort she sinks lower; it is horrible. Her hands
are so small that she does not grasp enough grass, enough reeds, at
once! Everything about her yields, everything fails to give support.
How the reeds break between her fingers! like grass threads! It seems
to her that clammy creatures are rubbing against her legs, her
hands--ah! yes, the snakes--the bloodsuckers! She will be eaten alive
by the bloodsuckers.--But where is the stake, near the edge of the
swamp, that she thought she saw a moment ago? She lets go the grass to
which she is clinging, with the result that she sinks deeper, still
deeper. Now the cold water submerges her bosom, surrounds her neck,
crawls up toward her mouth. Will she be compelled in a moment to drink
that filthy water? At that thought, she makes one final effort. Her
dishevelled locks cling about her neck, as if to strangle her, all
drenched and cold and slimy, like veritable snakes!--She struggles,
tosses her hands about this way and that--until one of them comes in
contact with the wooden stake, firmly planted in the ground.--Saintes
Maries!--She seizes it, twines her fingers about it, digs her nails
into it, and does not relax her hold. Nor will she, even when she is
dead! But her arm no longer has the strength to raise her, and her
head falls heavily back--her eyes close. Is this death?--It was at
that moment, just as she lost consciousness, that the brave-hearted
maid cried out,--not until then. And her cry rang out over the swamps,
like the call of the birds of passage, which ceaselessly, over all the
waters upon earth, seek the repose that can never be found.

That ghastly vision recurred again and again to Livette, while the
women of the Icard farm were busying themselves, a little too noisily,
around her bed. At last, there was silence in her room. She saw her
father come in, but she did not choose to explain anything to him. She
sent word to the grandmother not to be anxious, that she would return
home in three days. Livette asked to see Renaud. Her father went to
find him. She closed her eyes.

She fancied that she could remember, now, certain things that
happened to her during her sleep of death in the _gargate_, but were
not reproduced in her dream. She felt Renaud's arms lifting her out of
the mire, and that, after all, is the one thing to be desired, more
than life itself--the protection of the man she loved, her lover's
mourning for her, thinking that she was dead.--But before that, a
moment before, had she not felt the weight of a fixed gaze upon
her?--She had looked dimly forth between her drooping eyelids, through
her long lashes which seemed to her like a thick grating; and she
fancied that she saw the gipsy, the ill-omened gitana, standing before
her. "Yes, it is she, it is really she. She is standing here beside
me. She looks very, very tall. Her head touches the sky. She is on the
path leading to the cabin. She is just coming from the rendezvous. She
has been kissing Renaud! When will he come? Will the witch's black
shadow, standing so straight there, never go? What more do you want,
witch? Don't you see that I am dead? I must make you think I am dead.
Then you will leave me, at last!--The wicked woman is always smiling.
Ah! there she goes.--How heavy her glance was! And how tall she was!
She kept all the light from me. Now I can see the sky again. Is it
you, Renaud, is it you, Jacques, who take me in your arms as if I were
dead?--It is you, at last!"

Thus cried poor Livette, delirious once more. But Renaud was sitting
beside her bed with his face in his hands, listening to her.

"It is you," she went on; "you think me dead, and I can feel you take
me in your arms and quickly carry me away. But why do you not weep,
when you see me so? It is you, at last! I am dead, and still I feel
you. You have me in your arms. Your heart beats fast. Mine has ceased
to beat. Where were you, bad boy? What did you say to her? But that is
past and gone!--Is that woman very dear to your heart?--Why do you
come no more to my father's house in the evening? He is very fond of
you. Grandma is a dear old soul. Do you see how faithful she is to her
dead husband? People knew how to love one another better in her day,
she says. Is it true? Do you believe it, Jacques? And if I die, won't
you keep my memory sacred, as she keeps grandpa's?--Why do you make me
suffer so?--Are we two never to walk under the great elm again? Our
pretty stone bench under the rose-bushes is very sad now, and lonely
like a tombstone. Ah! if you had chosen! I was pretty, yes, pretty,
pretty! And now I shall be ugly. For I have done with life, even if I
am not dead. My life is at an end, at an end!"



XXV

THE PHANTOM


Livette, who had been carried back to the Château d'Avignon many days
before, had not left her bed. The fever clung to her obstinately.
Nothing could be done.

Was it really true, O God, that she was doomed to die, and he to see
it? Was he to lose the future he had dreamed of, a future of unruffled
happiness, of love and peace, as her husband; the joy he had known for
such a brief space, of having a woman, sweet and dear and helpless as
a child, to cherish and protect?--Was he condemned never to know the
pleasure of having a family--a pleasure that had been denied to him,
an orphan, and of which he had often dreamed as of one of the joys of
Paradise--was he condemned never to know it, because he had forgotten
his longing for a single day? The picture, dear to country-folk, of
the chimney with the smoke curling upward, that seems to say to them,
as far as it can be seen: "The soup is hot, the wife is waiting, the
children are calling," recurred sometimes to his mind, and he sighed
profoundly.

The punishment that he saw coming upon him did not seem to him
proportionate to the offence. There was no justice in it!

What is the meaning of that most terrible of all mysteries: that the
love of the senses is more powerful than the love of the heart when
separated from its object, even though the last be recognized as the
more certain and the sweeter?

Between the lofty chapel and the subterranean crypt of the church of
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, on the level of human life, does the miracle
come always from below? And if it be so, is it any less a miracle?
Which of you has fathomed the meaning of life? Who can say: "It is
unjust," or: "It is useless," or: "What I do not see does not exist"?
Who can say if Livette's sufferings and Renaud's, their troubles and
their heart-burnings, all the invisible and inexplicable movements
within themselves,--of which they knew nothing,--were not preparing
the way for realities inconceivable to our minds? The _ideal_, the
dream of what is best, is the essential condition of the _material_
development of mankind. No force is wasted; everything is transformed.
"Everything is of some use," said the old shepherd Sigaud. "It takes
all kinds to make a world."

Livette had forgiven Renaud, Renaud had not forgiven himself.

Sometimes he gazed at her, deeply moved, and he suffered with her for
hours at a time. Sometimes he had sudden fits of rage against
her--paroxysms of wickedness, as it were. Was she not an obstacle in
his path? At such times, he believed that he was possessed by a devil,
and he would kneel by Livette's bed and pray to the saints, the women
of compassion.

Ah! how thin she was! Her eyes seemed to have grown larger, and to
have changed from blue to black, because the pupils were still
dilated. Her long, fair hair no longer shone. It seemed as if the
muddy water of the swamp had taken away its gloss forever.

She often started at noises that she imagined she heard.

She, who in the old days used to talk but little, was constantly
telling of the things she had dreamed, and she would be vexed if they
were not remembered.

The doctors of Arles tried everything. Nothing was of any avail.

"I want no more of their medicine," she said one day to Renaud. "They
might do very well for swamp fever, but there is something else the
matter with me. It was my heart that you drowned. I never could
believe you again; it is much better that I should die."

She had explained nothing to her father or grandmother.

"They would have turned you out of the house," she said, "and I wanted
to see you to the end."

Her journey to the Icard farm, her nocturnal flight, her accident, all
were attributed to an attack of fever, which was supposed to have been
responsible for her actions, whereas, on the contrary, her illness
was the result of them all.

Renaud, by a desperate effort, mastered his passion at last. Was it
forever? He chose to think so, because it was necessary that it should
be so, in order to keep her alive.

He tried not to think of the other. He tried to repent. Every moment
he tore from his mind by an exertion of his will--as he would tear up
grass with his hand--some one of his memories. He told amusing
stories, pretending to laugh loudest at them.

His heart was filled with a great pity for Livette, but, for all that,
you would not have had to lift a very large stone to find there, in a
spot that he knew well, the sleeping viper.

"I shall die, I shall die!"--Livette often said, "but I want to see
the fête of Saintes-Maries once more. I want to live till then. You
must carry me there and lay me on the relics; that is where I want to
die. And at my burial, I want the drovers, your comrades, to follow on
horseback--promise me this--with their spears reversed, like the
soldiers I saw at Avignon one day, marching to the cemetery, holding
their guns that way."

With a sort of gaiety, she often recurred to the subject of her
burial, and embellished it with other details, saying, with the air of
a playful child:

"There must be lilies, as there are in the procession at
Saintes-Maries when they go to bless the sea; I want lots of lilies!
Lilies are so pretty and white! they are so proud on their stalks, and
they smell so sweet!"

Meanwhile, the season was hastening away; the months came and went,
like the same months in years past for centuries.

Summer set the sky and land and sea ablaze, drawing the last drop of
moisture from the swamps, sowing the venomous seeds of miasma in the
heavy air that people breathed. The crops ripened; then came the
harvest. It was autumn. The redbreast sang in the park of the Château
d'Avignon. The nights grew long once more. The leaves fell. The sad
days of the year began.

The buttercups had disappeared. The Vaccarès, which had been dry all
summer, no longer exposed to the sun its lovely mouse-gray bed; it was
once more a sea. The light golden tint of the September sky was long
since hidden from sight behind the rising mists.

The birds of passage began anew their flight over the mirror-like
island which promised them abundant prey. The eagle hurried from the
Alps to make war upon the fish-hawks. And at night, when the wind
howled and the rain fell in torrents, the storks and cranes and geese
passed over in triangular flocks, at a great height in the drenched
atmosphere, uttering cries like cries of alarm.

Livette's suffering became more intense. She passed whole days sitting
at her window.

One evening, Renaud was sitting beside her, in silence, while the
grandmother and Père Audiffret were dining in the room below. The
room was dimly lighted by a lamp. Suddenly Livette sprang to her feet,
then fell back, crying:

"There she is! there she is! No! no! don't go with her! I don't want
you to! no, no, Jacques!"

Renaud also had risen, and was staring vacantly at Livette; following
the direction of her gaze, he began to tremble. Outside the window
stood a pale, uncertain, but very recognizable spectre, the gipsy
herself! He had no sooner recognized her than she disappeared, after
making a significant sign to him, that said: "Come!"

It was not a vision of the sick girl's imagination, for he, too, had
seen it!

Perhaps the fever-laden island had sown its poison in the blood of
both. The germs of fever were taking root and flourishing in them. The
blight of the _paluns_ implanted in their brains, as in a cloudy
mirror, the image everlastingly repeated of the familiar plaintive
objects of the desert, with which the current of their thoughts was
mingled.

"Don't go! don't go! my Jacques!"

She dragged herself along the floor on her knees, shaken with sobs,
imploring the drover, as she clung with both hands to his jacket.

The father and grandmother had hastened to the room.

The father, too, was sobbing, and knew not what to do. The grandmother
slowly seated herself by the bed on which Renaud had gently laid
Livette.

Calm and silent, the old woman gazed long and with a beautiful
expression of perfect trust upon the copper crucifix and the images of
the saints that hung on the wall of the recess.

And, on the bed, Livette, uttering cries like a lost bird, twining her
fingers about her as if clinging to life, to the reeds in the swamp
wherein she still fancied that she was drowning--Livette breathed her
last.

Livette was dead.

The drovers, on horseback, with spears reversed, attended her body to
the cemetery. Her favorite dog followed her thither.

Renaud placed lilies on her grave. She sleeps in the cemetery of
Saintes-Maries, at the foot of the dunes, under the cultivated lilies,
among the wild asphodels, on the sea-shore.

Renaud returned to the desert, too much like the bull that, when
wounded in the arena, returns to the solitude of the swamps, where he
can lick his wounds, give free vent to his rage, bellow at the clouds,
and to no purpose, but to his heart's content tear at the steel left
in the wound.

One day they found, on the shore of the Vaccarès, Rampal's bleeding
body, pierced by horns in two places. Bernard alone saw his duel with
Renaud one evening, when the sky was red with the afterglow. They
fought hand to hand, in the midst of the drove, and Renaud, lifting
his enemy from the ground in his arms, laid him face upward, dead, on
the horns of a heifer that came rushing at them and, with one motion
of her bulky head, tossed a corpse into the air.

Rampal died without a cry. He lay three days where he fell. The black
bulls, that mourn nine days when one of their kind falls dead in the
pasture, bellowed for three days around Rampal's body, at a respectful
distance.

Bernard alone saw the duel and said nothing; but the people of the
desert knew; they guessed the truth.

Since that, Renaud has become like a phantom himself.

In all weathers, summer or winter, rain or shine, he can be seen here
and there, in the Camargue desert, sitting erect and melancholy on his
horse, spear in hand.

He regrets Livette. He loves Zinzara. He weeps only for himself, the
wretched creature! He has lost the paradise of affection he had
dreamed of, and the appetizing hell of savage love he had tasted. He
has nothing. It seems to him that Livette's death, for which he blames
himself, has left him free to abandon himself to his passion for the
other; but the other is absent--and, though absent, she tortures him
as relentlessly as on the day when, clinging to his horse's mane, she
defied him with insulting words, and aroused his passions, while he
dared not shake her off, trample upon her, or seize her.

The memory of her is upon him like the gadfly that persists in
following back the bloody track of its sting. Vainly does he shake
himself; he cannot rid himself of it. Renaud loves Zinzara; he longs
for her without hope, and, ruled by that single desire, he feels no
other, so that the unexpended power of his youth accumulates within
him and drives him mad.

The friends' houses, the fêtes he used formerly to visit, have no
further interest for him, because the only being he seeks cannot be
found. The desert, once peopled with hopes in his eyes, has become an
empty void. The roads that traverse it no longer lead anywhere.

He surprises himself sometimes, at night, bellowing with the bulls,
against the wind that annoys them, toward the distant horizon. He is
like one possessed. A devil dwells within him.

When he is weary of wandering about and of being in the saddle, and
chooses to lie down and sleep for a day, he repairs to the cabin of
his love, in the _gargate_, and there, full sure of being undisturbed,
raves like a wild beast, in his frenzy at being alone. In the morning,
he emerges from his retreat, more depressed, more miserable, more
haunted with visions than ever.

At times, he fancies that he sees Livette under his horse's feet,
imploring wildly, with hands outstretched--but he digs his spurs into
his horse and rides on. A terrible shriek constantly rings in his
ears.

He rides toward another spectre that calls him from the farthest point
of the horizon.--He says, to any one who cares to listen, that he has
come from Egypt, where he was a king, and that he will return there
some day, King of Camargue.

His disordered mind seems the very incarnation of the wild moor. He
fancies that he is flying about in circles with the birds of the
swamps that weep in the drizzling rain. The _mistral_ lashes his
wings. When the wind blows through his hair, he pities the poor grass
of the plains because the _mistral_ is torturing it.

All the lamentations of the reeds and swamps, of the river and the
sea, are but the ringing in his ears, and their loud wailing is
constantly punctuated by a shriek--oh! so heart-rending it is!--the
shriek of Livette!

As the bell-tower of the church of Saintes-Maries is filled with owls,
so his heart is full of the remorse of a Christian; and the curé's
kindness to him does not drive it away.

When he stands upon the sea-shore, many times he feels an overpowering
desire to urge his horse, bleeding beneath the spur, far out to sea,
farther and farther, until he vanishes in the direction of the
country, vaguely seen in dreams, from which the saints and gipsies
come--but something stops him; his destiny holds him back; he belongs
to his kingdom.

If he has known one hour's peace of mind, it was on a certain morning
when, among the usual hideous nightmares inspired by the memory of
Zinzara, he had a pleasant dream, in which he saw Livette, dressed in
white, with lilies in her hands like the saints in church pictures,
smiling and saying to him: "I have forgiven you. FORGIVE YOURSELF."

The respite was of brief duration, for the herdsman did not know that
excessive repentance is a crime, when it goes so far as to dry up the
springs of will-power in a man, when it renders sterile his field of
activity, when it bars the way to doing better in the future.

Self-pardon, at the proper time, after due penance has been done, is
one of the secrets of the wise among men; for, without it, the first
misstep would lead to never-ending despair, and would render all
courage useless forever.

Such was the curé's opinion, which Renaud listened to, in the
confessional, without paying heed to it.

He suffers, therefore, incessantly, awaiting the hour when his
suffering shall be allayed. He is like the camping-grounds abandoned
by shepherds and flocks, the _jasses_ of the desert, still black from
an old conflagration, and surrounded by briers where rose-bushes once
flourished. He is like the aloes that wither instantly in desolation,
after the stalk their love has caused to bloom has risen high into the
air.

The dream in which Renaud saw Livette was explained to him several
times by Monsieur le curé, but always to no purpose.

How, indeed, could his remorse cease, when his passion still endured,
and when he was constantly committing anew, in desire, the sin that
caused all the misery?

My friends, there is but one wise course to pursue: "Plant a tree,
build a house, rear a child. Be patient--everything comes in due time.
The thing that does not happen in a hundred years, may happen in six
thousand. The future is still yours!"

When Renaud, in the dreams of his unhealthy life, feels, as he
sometimes does, that his love is stronger in him than his passion, it
seems to him as if Livette were drawing him toward death, but
truthful, kindly beings never inspire thoughts of self-destruction.

Of one thing, at least, he is certain. He feels that voluntary death
would not remove him from the circle of the accursed. He would, on the
contrary, descend still lower in the spiral pit of mortals damned by
love.

They say that persons drowned in the Rhône, borne along without doubt
by the irresistible current, which brings them all together at the
mouth of the river, return, on certain evenings, to hold a carnival of
despair on the surface of the water.

Happy are they since they are, on those occasions, united.

But they who are drowned in stagnant waters, and they who, to join
them, die by their own hand, are never aught but solitary spectres.
They seek each other all the time, but always unavailingly. They are
the souls of the damned. They wander through the desert, calling to
one another; but never even approach or see one another; and at night,
in the deserts of Crau and Camargue, the traveller hears long-drawn,
wailing cries, flying unavailingly hither and thither over the vast
plains, forever and forever.

Even the clouds call and answer one another in their aerial flight.



NOTES


[1] "Do not wear out your shoes on the hard roads;
    Rather take boat and so descend the Rhône.

    "Leave Lyon and Valence behind;
    Salute them with a nod as you pass beneath their bridges.

    "Avignon is the queen,--but pass her by as well;
    Not till you come to Arles will you find your love----

    "The plain is fair and broad, O comrade,----
    Take your love _en croupe_, and off you go!"

[2] "On the bridge of Avignon every one must pay toll."

[3] The name Vincent is pronounced very much like _vingt cent_, twenty
hundred, or two thousand.

[4] "May this work of mine, begun in God's name, be constantly blessed
with the favor of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit wisely guide my
hand, my pen, and my understanding."

[5] What would the good curé have said had he been told that a
contemporary poet, Monsieur Pierre Gauthiez, has adopted the too
common error? According to him, an Egyptian Marie came to Camargue in
the boat with the saints.--When they approached the shore, it became
necessary to reward the devoted boatman who had helped them to
accomplish the prodigious journey. One of them gave him a sprig of
rosemary that had touched the lips of the Christ; another, a lock of
her fair hair. And as to the third--

    "L'Égyptienne au doux oeil sombre,
    Debout auprès d'un olivier,
    Regarda le beau batelier.

    "Elle prit son voile de lin,
    Et découvrit sa chair de vierge
    Pure et luisante, ainsi qu'un cierge,
    Sous le soleil à son déclin.
    Elle fut toute nue, et comme
    Sur le sable roux, le jeune homme
    S'agenouillait, la lèvre en feu,
    Tendant ses bras comme vers Dieu,
    La sainte, sans robe ni voiles,
    Pareille aux célestes étoiles,
    Lui dit: 'Tu vois, mon batelier,
    Je n'ai que Moi pour te payer!'"

(Translation.)

"The Egyptian of the soft dark eye, standing beside an olive-tree,
gazed upon the comely boatman.

"She put aside her linen veil and discovered her virgin flesh, all
pure and glistening, like a wax taper, beneath the setting sun. She
was quite naked, and, as the young man knelt on the red sand, with
lips on fire, holding out his arms to her as if to God, the saint,
like the stars in heaven, wearing no gown or veil, said to him: 'Thou
seest, my boatman, I have naught but Myself wherewith to pay thee!'"

[6] The spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak.

[7] The _tarasque_, perhaps, is nothing more than a reproduction of
the crocodile of the Rhône, increased in size to an absurd degree by
the popular imagination. This one, the last that was seen in Camargue,
so they say, is hanging to-day in the _Hôpital des Antiquailles_ at
Lyon, with an inscription stating the source from whence it came:
"Gift of M. le Curé of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer."

[8] _C'est le sort._--_Sort_ may mean _fate_, and it may also mean
_spell_, being used in the latter sense almost synonymously with
_sortilège_. It may also mean _chance_.

[9] "When you were upon the great deep, without oars to row your boat,
Saintes Maries! Naught but the sea and sky about you--with all your
eyes you appealed to the verdant shore to be gentle."

[10] "Beneath the sun, beneath the stars, with sails made of the gowns
you wore--Sail on, O ship!--seven days and nights you sailed and
sailed and saw no vessel, large or small--naught but the sea and the
great deep!"

[11] "God, who makes of a lightning-flash His scourge, wherewith to
scourge the sky and sea, Saintes Maries! guided the bark to a safe
harbor--an angel, who appeared on board, pointed out the way to the
verdant shore."

[12] "Kneeling before God's tabernacle, we, stained with sin from
birth, do invoke your power, for whom God performed this miracle--Holy
women, protect us!"

[13] _Comment s'appelle ton chien?_--In common parlance--What is your
dog's name? The joke is lost unless it is translated literally.



Transcriber's Note

Minor punctuation errors have been repaired.

Hyphenation and accent usage has been made consistent.

A single closing quote was omitted on page 7. The transcriber has
added one in what seemed the most appropriate place--"... 'Look! I am
dark, but I am beautiful! ... So be it!'"

The following typographic errors have been fixed:

    Page 6--Carmargue amended to Camargue--"... this 'Château
    d'Avignon,' the finest in all Camargue."

    Facing page 64 (illustration caption)--Renard's amended to
    Renaud's--"... and pulled back with all her strength the
    double rein of Renaud's horse, ..."

    Page 111--Moveover amended to Moreover--"Moreover, after the
    harvest was gathered, ..."

    Page 300--house amended to horse--"... "we will ride
    together till night. My horse has wings.""

The frontispiece illustration and introductory front matter has been
moved to follow the title page. Other illustrations have been moved
where necessary so that they are not in the middle of a paragraph.

The Table of contents has been added by the transcriber for the
convenience of the reader.

The List of Illustrations has been moved from its original location on
page 349 to the beginning of the book.





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