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Title: The Treasure of the Isle of Mist
Author: Tarn, W. W. (William Woodthorpe), 1869-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Treasure of the Isle of Mist" ***

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THE
TREASURE
OF THE
ISLE OF MIST

BY
W. W. TARN

[Illustration]

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
The Knickerbocker Press
1920

COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
W. W. TARN

[Illustration]



A FAIRY TALE FOR
MY DAUGHTER



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                 PAGE
  I.    THE GIFT OF THE SEARCH               1
  II.   THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE            14
  III.  THE HAUNTED CAVE                    31
  IV.   THE URCHIN VANISHES                 47
  V.    THE OREAD                           88
  VI.   THE KING OF THE WOODCOCK           111
  VII.  FIONA IN THE FAIRY-WORLD           131
  VIII. FIONA FINDS HER TREASURE           181



The Treasure of the Isle of Mist

CHAPTER I

THE GIFT OF THE SEARCH


The Student and Fiona lived in a little gray house on the shores of a
gray sea-loch in the Isle of Mist. The Student was a thin man with a
stoop to his shoulders, which old Anne MacDermott said came of reading
books; but really it was because he had been educated at a place where
this is expected of you. Fiona, when she was doing nothing else, used
to help Anne to keep house, rather jerkily, in the way a learned man
may be supposed to like. She was a long-legged creature of fifteen,
who laughed when her father threatened her with school on the
mainland, and she had a warm heart and a largish size in shoes.
Sometimes they had dinner; sometimes nobody remembered in time, and
they had sunset and salt herrings, with a bowl of glorious yellow
corn-daisies to catch the sunset.

It was Anne who saw the old hawker crossing the field behind the
house, and burst in on the bookroom to inform the Student that he
wanted buttons. She was met by a patient remonstrance on her ambiguous
use of language:

"For," said the Student, "if you mean that buttons are lacking to me,
there may be something to be said for you; but if you mean that I
desire buttons, then indeed I do not desire buttons; I desire . . ."

Whereon Anne fled, and went out to meet the hawker. The frail old man,
bending under his pack, was crossing the meadow behind the house,
brushing his way through the September clover. His white hair was
uncovered save for the huge umbrella which he carried alike in sun
and rain; but youth still lingered in his eyes, which were bright as
the dawn and deep as the sea-caves. Behind him followed a little
rough-haired terrier, black as jet, his inseparable companion. At the
door he unslung his pack, and, leaving Anne to select her buttons,
passed straight through, knocked at the bookroom door, and went in.

The Student wheeled round in his chair and began to grope about.

"Have you seen my spectacles?" he said. "I can't see who you are till
I put them on, and I can't put them on till you find them for me, for
I can't see to find them myself unless I have them on. Pardon this
involved sentence."

The old hawker picked up the missing spectacles and handed them over.

"You wouldn't remember me, in any case," he said. "I last saw you
twenty-five years ago, when you were trying to dig at Verria. There
was an old man there, do you remember, being beaten by armed
Bashi-Bazouks, and you held them up with an empty revolver, and took
the old man to your camp and nursed him, and you said things to the
Turkish Governor, and . . ."

"My excavations came to an untimely end," said the Student. "I always
owed that old man a grudge for being beaten before my tent. Why
couldn't he have been beaten somewhere else? I should like to meet him
again and tell him precisely what I thought of his conduct."

"You have done both now," said the hawker. "And it is his turn."

"Impossible," said the Student. "He was as old twenty-five years ago
as you are now."

"At my age," said the old man, "one grows no older. No one who walks
the world as I do need ever grow any older. You can walk thirty miles
on Monday when you are twenty years old; good. If you can do it on
Monday you can do it on Tuesday; and if on Tuesday, then on Wednesday;
therefore, by an easy reckoning, you can do it as well at eighty
years old as at twenty. Thus you never age."

"There's a flaw in that somewhere," said the Student. "I know; it's
the Heap. How many grains of sand make a heap?"

"How many buttons do you want?" said the hawker. "You saved my life
once; you shall have all the buttons you want for nothing."

"I thought you couldn't answer my question," said the Student. "But we
are getting on much too fast; we haven't really begun yet. I suppose
you came here to sell things? Anne seemed to know you, and she said I
wanted buttons. I pointed out to her that her statement was either an
untruth or a truism, and equally objectionable in either sense; and
now you repeat it, just as I was beginning to consider you quite an
intelligent person. By the way, who are you?"

"I have a different name in most countries which I visit," said the
old man. "But by profession I sell buttons--and other things."

"What sort of things?" said the Student.

"I have dreams," said the old man, "dreams and the matter of dreams;
imaginings of the impossible come true; the wonder of the hills at
sunrise; the quest of unearthly treasure among the moon-flowers; the
look in the eyes of a child that trusts you."

The Student took off his spectacles, rubbed his eyes hard, and settled
his shoulders.

"I desire something very much," he said. "If you can do all that, you
can give me what I desire."

The hawker frowned.

"You are a scholar," he said, "and I can do nothing for scholars. You
need no ideal, for you have one. You need no dreams, for your life is
one. For you, the earth pours out hidden treasure, and the impossible
comes true day by day. What you desire just now is a long definite
inscription to settle a controverted point in your favor. And if I
could give it you, just think how miserable you'd be. Nothing further
to argue about, there; and several quite happy and contentious
professors would be reduced to such straits that I don't know what
crimes you might all commit. You might even take to making money."

"If I wanted money," said the Student, "I should, being an intelligent
person, at once proceed to make it. Then I should have to live in the
big house again, instead of letting it, and my precious time would be
spent in arguing with my gardener and endeavoring to conceal my
ignorance from my chauffeur. As it is, we live anyhow, and I am
happy."

"Happiness doesn't score any points in the game," said the hawker.
"What good do you and your inscriptions do, anyway?"

"That's not my job here," said the Student. "That will come on
afterwards. Besides, I don't want to do good. I am old-fashioned; why
should I take my neighbor by the throat and say, 'Let me do good to
you, or it shall be the worse for you and yours'? Besides, I can't do
good. You can't dot the wilderness with prosperous homesteads when
half the years the oats don't ripen till the year after. Besides, I
do do good; I have let the big house to shooting tenants, and it's
excellent for their health. Besides seventeen other reasons, which I
can enumerate if you are able to bear them. Besides, Fiona is fond of
me."

"Yes," said the old man softly, "that's your real justification. And
it's a great deal more than I could give you; my hawker's licence
doesn't cover the big things. How many buttons do you want?"

Fiona came scrambling through the open window, and curled herself up
on the rug with her head on the Student's knee. The Student stroked
her hair.

"Tell me what it's all about," she said.

"This gentleman," he said, "once interrupted a very important piece of
work which I was doing, and I was just about to tell him exactly what
I thought of him when you interrupted me."

The old hawker had risen and bowed courteously to the girl.

"My dear young lady," he said, "I have been searching my pack for a
present for your father, and found nothing suitable. But perhaps I
could find something for you."

Fiona jumped up.

"Have you a hedgehog?" was her question.

"I do not carry them with me, as a general thing," said the old man.
"No doubt one could be got. But why a hedgehog?"

"I want one for the Urchin," she said. "You see, it's his namesake."

"I see," said the old man, quite gravely. "And who is the Urchin?"

"The Urchin," said the Student, "is a young rascal who is the son of
my shooting tenant. He plunders my daughter of all her possessions,
and she abets him in every form of villainy."

"I do try to stop him throwing stones at things," said the girl.

"Here are hedgehogs," said the hawker. "Isn't that lucky, now?"

Past the window came five hedgehogs in a solemn row, two big and
three little. Behind them, marshalling the procession, walked the
black terrier, with an eye of happy drollery.

"There's something wrong about those hedgehogs," said the girl. "They
don't do things like that. I don't think I want a hedgehog any more,
thank you. How did you make them do that? Is your dog a conjurer?"

"I never harm anything," said the old man, "so that many creatures
will come to me when I call. But I have better presents than that."

"Choose for her, my friend," said the Student.

The old man began talking to himself in a low voice.

"Youth she has," he said, "and freedom, and the joy of life. Wonder
also, and dim imaginings of unseen things. And of the things which men
desire, fame and power are not worth giving, and love is not mine to
give. I have it. I give you the Search," he said. "The search for the
treasure of the Isle of Mist. Others have searched for it before; and
some have found; but the treasure never grows less."

"That's splendid," said the girl. "And when I find the treasure I will
buy my father seven great books which no one else wants to read, and
he will be perfectly happy."

"But I did not promise treasure," said the old man. "I promised a
search."

Fiona's face fell.

"Then am I not to find anything at the end of it?" she asked.

The old man chuckled quietly.

"I did not say that either," he said. "There _is_ a treasure, and you
shall search for it; and you will find it if you are able. Many there
are who helped to build it up. Cuchulain and the forgotten heroes who
fought before Cuchulain; Ossian and the forgotten bards who sang
before Ossian; Columba and the forgotten saints who died before
Columba; each has added something to the pile. It is their treasure
which you shall seek for; that is my gift to you."

"How shall I know where to begin?" asked the girl. "And may I take the
Urchin with me?"

"Whether you can take the Urchin with you or not depends on his
capacity to go," said the old man. "And as to beginning, I think you
will find that the Search will begin itself, independently of you. It
always does. But I can give you something that will help you," and he
took out of his pocket a red copper bangle, rudely hammered out with
some rough implement, which he slipped over her wrist. "That was made
long ago," he said, "made by men to whom metal was a new toy, men who
perhaps were nearer to the heart of things than we are."

"You will stay and have some dinner, will you not?" said the Student.
"At least, if this is a dinner night. Fiona, is this a dinner night?"

"I have my doubts," said the girl. "Oat cake and honeysuckle, I
expect."

"And what better?" said the old man. "But I fear I could not dine with
you, were it ortolans and Tokay. For I may never eat beneath a roof.
The open moor is my dining hall, and the stars serve me. And the long
white road is calling me even now. But I think that before the
treasure is found you will see me again."



CHAPTER II

THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE


"Man," said the Student, "is a weird creature. He dimly remembers that
he began his evolution, not as a pair, but as a horde; and to the
horde he still seeks, forming huge crowds during his working days, and
on his holidays merely transferring the same crowds in their totality
to some other place, accompanied by a great deal of purposeless noise.
Apart from his crowd he apparently feels chilly, and without noise
unhappy. Nothing is more striking to the reflective mind than the
abdication of civilization in the face of meaningless noises."

"Daddy," said Fiona, "I want your advice on the matter of treasure
hunting. For if two go together, they don't make a crowd, and they
needn't make a noise."

"Quote correctly," said the Student. "What Homer said was, that if you
and I went to look for a treasure, I, being a mere man, would find it
at once by logical processes of induction and deduction, while you,
being a superior woman, were losing yourself in the quicksands of the
intuitive short cut."

"Sir," said the girl, "your word is law to me. Therefore deduce."

"Persiflage," said the Student, "is not to be encouraged in young
children. Remember that if you were to force me to do so I might come
with you, and then I should see exactly how you bungled the thing."

"But that's what I want you to do, daddy," said Fiona.

"I don't," said the Student. "Though treasure hunting is quite an
ancient and respectable amusement. For treasure, some have descended
the crater of Popocatapetl; some have dived at Tobermory; some have
dug in Kensington Gardens. Alexander found a treasure at Persepolis,
and Essex lost another in Cadiz harbor. The treasure of the Incas lies
hid in a Peruvian ravine, known but to two Indians at a time; the
plunder which Alaric took from Rome is still beneath the river which
he diverted to guard it. No one has ever found the hoard of Captain
Kidd, or the gold carried in the Venetian galleon which sailed with
the Armada and went on the rocks in this loch. The pursuit of treasure
is, therefore, no doubt, for the young, a legitimate pastime."

"Daddy," said Fiona, "did one of the Armada ships really go ashore
here?"

"Yes, my dear," said the Student. "She was a great Venetian, called
after the Madonna of the Holy Cross, and she carried the doubloons
contributed by the Church."

"That's not the treasure the old man meant," said the girl.

"It is not," said the Student. "We know all about the Venetian ship.
The crew were mostly knocked on the head, but the captain brought the
doubloons ashore and hid them. He himself was saved by my ancestor for
the time being, to whom he gave a map showing the place in the cave in
which the treasure was hidden. He never came back for it. So far,
everything proceeded on approved lines. Unhappily, my ancestor was a
careless sort of person, and gambled the plan away. We never heard any
more of it. It is, however, a family tradition that there was nothing
on the plan to identify the cave; and as this coast, and the islands
in the loch, are honeycombed with caves, it would be of little use if
we had it. No one knows whereabouts the galleon went ashore. On calm
nights her officers may be seen swimming round the cliffs, keeping
guard still over their holy gold. Angus MacEachan saw one once, and
tried to speak to him; but he turned into a seal, and just looked at
Angus with large patient eyes; and Angus' boat was wrecked the week
after."

"And did you never search for the gold, daddy?" asked Fiona.

"Never, my dear," he said. "In the first place, it would mean a minute
examination of some 170 caves. In the second place, half of the caves
are not mine. In the third place, it is not the kind of treasure I
want. In the fourth place, I haven't time. In the fifth place, I am
morally certain it is not there now. In the sixth place, the
Government would claim it as treasure-trove. And in the seventh and
last place, I never thought about it till you asked me."

"I'm not getting any further with _my_ treasure hunting, daddy," said
Fiona. "Let's go out together and start."

"My dear," said the Student, "it's your search, not mine. It's no use
my trying to come with you. And I have a fancy that it won't begin
like that."

"Can you tell me how to begin then, daddy?" she asked.

"I suppose by taking no notice of it," he said. "It was to begin
itself, wasn't it? And I have an uncomfortable suspicion that you hunt
this kind of treasure by turning round and going the other way. So I
think you'd better run out and find the Urchin, and I'll get back to
my inscriptions."

The Urchin was Fiona's principal ally; a troublesome ally, owing to
his propensity for throwing stones. She found him now on the shore,
steadily bombarding a shore lark, that would move a little way out of
range and then sit down again, affording a splendid target. Luckily
the enthusiasm of the persecutor in pursuit was well matched by the
inaccuracy of his aim.

"Urchin," she called out, "if you hurt that bird the Little People
will take you; I thought I'd knocked that into you all right, even if
you _are_ English and slow in the uptake."

"All right," said the Urchin with a grin. "We conquered you, anyway."

"As a matter of fact," said the girl, "it was we who annexed you. If
your people were as bad shots as you, Urchin, it must have been quite
easy. You can't hit a bird sitting."

"Can't I?" said the Urchin. "You watch." Another fling, and horrors!
the shore lark rolled over, twittering helplessly and miserably.

Fiona was across the rocks like a young goat; and when the Urchin,
contrite but defiant, arrived, she had the wounded bird in her hands
and was holding it to her breast, feeling gently for its hurt. It lay
quite still, panting, and watching her with quick bright eyes.

"Broken wing," she said. "I believe it will mend. Urchin, you are a
mere beast. You'd better go home; I don't want ever to see you again."

The Urchin turned scarlet.

"That's just like a girl," he said. "First you tell me I can't hit the
old bird, which is the same thing as telling me to hit it; and then
when I do hit it you turn round on me and call names; and all the time
you're just as bad as I am." And the Urchin turned and stalked off,
an heroic figure with the mien of a Marcus Curtius about to save his
country by leaping into the gulf. Unhappily there was a real gulf, and
the boy, head in air, rolled neatly into it, and emerged from between
two rocks, dripping and no longer heroic, rubbing a torn stocking and
a scraped shin.

It was too much for Fiona's gravity.

"Urchin," she called, "come back here, _quick_." And as the unhappy
Urchin stood in doubt, hither and thither dividing the swift mind, she
slid over the rocks and caught him. "My fault," she said, "and I'm
sorry all the way through. Now I'll mend you first, and then we must
mend the bird."

"And then what'll we do?" said the boy. "Let's do something harmless
for a bit, hunt for shells or shrimps or . . ."

"Treasure," suggested Fiona, rather shyly. And by the time they had
reached the house, and she had repaired the Urchin, and disposed the
wounded bird as comfortably as possible, the boy had been put in
possession of the essential facts of the case.

"Mar-vellous," was the Urchin's comment. "Now, don't you see, Fiona?
you can have your treasure when we find it, and I'll have the Spanish
treasure when we find it, and there we both are. I want lots and lots
and lots of those doubloons."

"What for?" said Fiona.

"Gun," said the Urchin. "Donald Ruadh has an old gun which he would
sell me for two pounds. He says one barrel shoots all right sometimes.
And I would use the rest of the doubloons to buy cartridges, and then
I could kill curlews."

"You little wretch," said the girl. "You won't kill my curlews while
I'm about. And anyhow your old gun would probably blow you up first.
And anyhow you haven't got the doubloons yet. And they're not yours if
you do find them."

"Whose would they be?" asked the Urchin.

"I suppose my father's," said Fiona. "But it depends on which cave
they were in."

"Come on, then," said the boy. "I'm going to ask him for them."

The Student took the interruption good-humoredly.

"I am in the second century," he said. "Doubloons have not yet been
coined. As to these doubloons, I am quite sure they are not there,
wherever 'there' may be; but if they are there, I have no objection to
the Urchin fighting the Government for them. Urchin, would you like a
deed?"

And, to the delight of the Urchin, the Student proceeded to make out a
document, which called on all men to know that the said Student
thereby assigned to the said Urchin all the estate, right, title, and
interest, if any, of the said Student in and to a certain treasure of
doubloons or other coins once carried in the galleon called _Our Lady
of the Holy Cross_ were the same a little more or less ("all good
deeds get that in somewhere," said the Student) to hold to the said
Urchin and his heirs ("but I don't suppose the heirs will see much of
it") to the intent that he might become a wiser and a better Urchin
and not interrupt the said Student any more when he wanted to work.
This being done, the Student signed his name at the end, made a
beautiful blot of hot red sealing wax and put his signet ring on it,
and made Fiona sign her name as witness ("which is probably not
legal," he explained cheerfully); then he handed over the deed to the
rejoicing Urchin, with the remark that it was quite as good as many
lawyers' deeds, and drove the pair of them out of the bookroom.

"Good," said the Urchin. "Now I've a treasure just the same as you."

"If we find them," said Fiona.

"Well, let's go and start hunting for them at any rate," said the boy.

"Pardon me," said the shore lark, "if I interrupt; but you might be
the better of a few hints."

Fiona dropped on her knees and took the little bird in her hands
again.

"So you can talk," she said. "That's jolly. You've a first-rate chance
of returning good for evil, and making us feel worms."

"Don't talk of worms," said the shore lark, "you have entirely omitted
to provide me with any. Send him to get some, and I'll tell you
something. He can't understand what I'm saying, anyhow."

"Urchin," said the girl, "he's asking for worms. Go and get him some."

"One would think you and he could talk to each other," said the boy.
"Silly, I call it, going on like that. I suppose that's what girls
do."

"Urchin," said Fiona, "when you and I have a row, what happens?"

"_You_ happen," said the Urchin. "You've three years' pull; 'tisn't
fair; just like a girl, to go and have three years' pull of a chap."

"Stop grousing," said the girl, "and get me the worms, there's a dear
little boy."

The Urchin flung the nearest book at her, missed as usual, and, having
thus made his honor white, departed, declaring in simpler language
that the love of worms was the root of all evil.

"I can't tell you much," said the shore lark, "but one sometimes picks
up things, hopping about, and I heard you say treasure. If you mean
the Venetian ship, don't start without consulting the finner. He is
very old, and I believe that he knows everything that happens in this
loch."

"I don't really mean that," said Fiona. "That's half a jest. I mean my
own search, the search for the treasure of the Isle of Mist."

"We have all heard of it," said the shore lark, "and we all know that
you cannot find it by looking for it. All I can tell you is this: the
curlews have a tradition that the last man who found it went up a
hill. That is what they tell each other when they call in the spring;
and I believe they know."

"They are like the spirits of the hills themselves," said Fiona.
"Tell me why it is I can understand you."

"I have no idea," said the shore lark. "I am only a little bird, and I
don't know very much. I chanced speaking to you because I wanted
worms."

The girl slipped across into the bookroom.

"Daddy," she said, "come back out of the second century, and tell me
why I can understand the shore lark."

The Student looked up with a patient smile in far-away eyes.

"It isn't time to come back yet," he said. "And I have not fully
grasped your meaning. You appear to refer to some conversation with
some bird. There are precedents, of course. For instance, the
philosopher Empedocles, having been a bird himself in a former life,
remembered their speech; he ended by leaping into Ætna. Siegfried
also, having bathed in the blood of Fafnir, followed the voice of a
bird of the wood; he ended by losing his love and his life. There was
once a sailor who took the advice of a parrot, and was hanged. Birds
are light-minded, as the poet Aristophanes discovered; and it would
seem that little good comes of talking to them."

"My shore lark is a darling," said Fiona. "And I don't intend to be
hanged."

"That," said the Student, "is as Providence pleases. One never knows,
as my poor ancestor said when he fell into a bear-trap and found the
bear there before him."

"O daddy," said the girl, "did he really? And what happened?"

"This ancestor of mine," said the Student, "was a very strong man. If
he had not been, someone else would have killed him first, and he
would not have been my ancestor; the other man would have been someone
else's ancestor, so to speak. Being a very strong man, he naturally
killed the bear. He must have, or he would not have lived to be my
ancestor. In those days everyone lived in caves, and he lived in a
cave too; and he always killed the other man, sometimes fairly,
sometimes, I regret to say, otherwise. He courted my ancestress by
knocking her down from behind with the blunt end of a stone ax, a
method which I do not defend; but when her senses returned she told
him he had acted like a man, and they became a most devoted couple.
This was partly due, no doubt, to the fact that he never saw the
meaning of the things she said; she took good care that he shouldn't,
for though slow of wit he was handy with his ax. Their life I think
must have been very happy till one day he found a red stone which he
could heat and shape with his ax, and he hammered out that copper
bracelet you're wearing; and then came the deluge, for metal meant
magic then, as you know. Next day my ancestress found him conversing
with the local vulture; within a week he was giving exhibitions in the
other caves with the vulture's assistance; in a month he had become
the tribal god; and about two years after, owing to the persistent
failure of some of his magic to come off, he was, for a brief moment,
the tribal banquet. Now you know what comes of talking to shore
larks."

"Daddy," she said, "you can't know if that's true or not, can you?"

"It may not all be what _you_ call true," said the Student, "but it's
true in quite a lot of ways. It's true psychologically, and
anthropologically, and palæethnologically; and that does to start
with. And I certainly _had_ ancestors. And there _is_ a bracelet. And
you _were_ talking strange words about a shore lark. And you must
really take care, my dear daughter; for you _ought_ now to become a
tribal priestess, and be hurled from a high place into the sea the
first season that the herring fail."



CHAPTER III

THE HAUNTED CAVE


A sunlit sheet of sea, violet and azure, clothed in slender cloud
shadows and heaving gently to the long Atlantic ground-swell. Up
through the calm water, to meet the eye of the gazer, came the green
clearness of stone, and blinks of unveined sand showing white between
the brown tangled blades of the great oar-weed; and you might see a
school of little cuddies, heads all one way, playing hide and seek in
the sea forest, and caring no whit for the clumsy armored crab beneath
them, who crawled sideways, a laborious patch of color in the
shimmering transparency. Up out of the deep water the gray rocks rose
clear and fine, a mass of platforms and pinnacles, roughened with
barnacles and tufted with dulse, whose crimson leaves floated and
swung in the white foam of the lisping swell; and above the rocks and
beyond the sea's reach the cliff stood up black, showing all the
strata that had gone to the making of it outlined with little patches
of coarse grass. On one such patch grazed without concern a sheep
which had slipped over, happy in her ignorance of the fact that she
could never be drawn up again alive; the wiser raven overhead was
clanging away with short barks to tell his mate. On a ridge on the
cliff side sat a pair of young scarfs, almost invisible save when they
twisted their long necks about like two snakes, trying to make up
their minds to follow their mother, who had just flopped clumsily into
the water, feet first, and had turned there and then into a miracle of
easy grace, as she used her head to dash the spray over her back. Out
at sea a solan rose steadily in a sweeping spiral, the white and black
of him glittering in the sun; suddenly he checked, reversed engines,
and fell plump like an inverted cross, his long raking wings clapping
to as he struck the water; a moment, and he was up, and there sat,
choking and gobbling over his fish, ere he rose again in his majestic
rings.

The two children had grounded their boat on a little pebble beach
between the rocks, and were sitting on a big tuft of sea pinks,
munching handfuls of the sweet dulse and watching the solan at his
fishing. They were by way of fishing themselves, but the afternoon was
as yet too early and too clear for them. The Urchin had a pile of
stones beside him, and was apparently trying to see how many times in
twenty he could miss a large and obvious spur of rock. Fiona had a
book of poetry, and was making intermittent efforts to read; but the
world was too full of things to give poetry a fair chance.

The Urchin threw his last stone away.

"Silly sitting here," he said; "come and explore."

So, scrambling and sliding, the two made their way across the rocks,
stopping at every rock pool to raise its fringe of weed with careful
hands and investigate the wonder of the little world below; sea
flowers of every hue, white and green, gray and orange, purple and
white and gray and purple again, some smooth and satisfied, others
with tentacles greedily awash, that could be induced to suck at a
small finger dexterously inserted; sea shells of every contour, some
living and clutching at the rock, some cast off and dead, others again
protruding alien claws, resurrected to a life of artificial movement
by the little hermit crabs whose tails they sheltered; here and there
the spiky pink globe of a sea urchin, waiting for the tide to float
him off. And in one deep little pot, with sides green like a grotto of
ferns, they found a miniature battle. A small green crab, who had cast
his shell, sat humped in a recess of the grotto, a thing soft and
vulnerable, a delight to the enemy; and in front of him, excited and
transparent, were half a dozen shrimps, the horn on each forehead
pointed at him; from time to time some young gallant would dash in to
prod the helpless monster, and at once backwater again into the ranks
of his friends. The crab bore his torment with a patience born of the
knowledge that each minute his new carapace was hardening; the shrimps
had no wit to count the cost, or reckon the odds that the rising tide
might bear them away in safety from the day of vengeance.

On hands and knees, not daring to breathe on the limpid surface of the
pool, the children watched the little drama. From the cliff top the
heated air rose dancing into the sky. So still were earth and air and
sea that the old finner's rise sounded as though the cliff were
falling. He had worked nearer in to the rocks than seemed possible for
his ninety feet of blubber and muscle, and as his black side rolled
over, the water about him boiled like a pot; but he did not splash,
for he had been well brought up and always knew what his tail was
doing, though it was so far away.

"Shiver these rocks," he began in a rage, as he flung two fountains
out of his nose. Then he caught sight of Fiona and the gleam of the
red bracelet.

"Oh my fins and flippers!" he spouted. "I ask pardon, young lady; I
haven't the manners of a grampus. And they told me about you."

"Who's they?" asked Fiona, ungrammatically.

"Friends at Court, friends at Court," said the finner. "What a thing
to have. 'No need of the old sailorman,' said I. But they said I must
go. And I've scraped the barnacles off my precious tail. Will it run
to some tobacco?"

"Will what run?" said the girl. "Your tail? What is it you want?"

"Hints are wasted, I see," said the whale. "'One question,' said I.
Only one. But magic is magic, you know, even for a tough old
sailorman. Come now, one question. I'm too far inshore for my
liking."

Fiona understood.

"Is it about my treasure?" she said.

"Yours, or that boy's there, whichever you like," said the whale. "But
only one, only one."

For about two seconds Fiona did some hard mental drill. Then she said:

"Will you please tell me where the Urchin can find his treasure?"

"You do have luck," said the finner. "Think of it, then. O you little
fishes, think of it. If you'd asked the other, I didn't know the
answer. Wouldn't have got an answer, and my tail all scraped for
nothing. And this one, my great-great-grandmother saw it all, and
nobody knows here but me and the seals and one man, and he's too fat
to count. West cave, Scargill Island; and bring you luck, my dear.
Will it run to some tobacco?"

"Thank you so much," said Fiona politely. "And I'm sorry I haven't any
tobacco with me. But if you could wait a few minutes . . ."

"Shiver it, I'm scraping again," said the whale. "No tobacco and very
few barnacles in this world. O my grandmother's flukes, I might as
well be a bottlenose!"

Once more the water boiled, and beneath it the huge black body shot
away for the open sea.

"Fiona," said the boy, "do you really think it's cricket?"

"What isn't cricket?" she asked.

"Fiona," he said, "I've been a brother to you. I have done all the
things a brother ought to do. I have taught you to throw like a boy. I
have pinched you for new clothes. I have called you names, to make you
good-tempered. I have made remarks on your personal appearance, to
prevent your being vain. I have even fought with you, solely for your
good. And this is how you repay me. The other day you pretended to be
talking to a shore lark; to-day it was an old whale, who spouted and
banged his tail on the rock. If it's a joke, I don't see it. If it's
not a joke, do go into a lunatic asylum, and let me find a simpler
job."

Fiona tossed up mentally between hitting him and laughing; it came
down laughing.

"Urchin," she said, "it's all right. I don't understand it much better
than you do, but it has something to do with this bracelet of mine. I
can really understand them and they can understand me. If you doubt my
word, we will fight a duel with the boat stretchers, and I will bury
you in the sand here afterwards."

"Oh, I believe you when you talk like that," said the Urchin; "only
it's worse than the Latin grammar. _Psittacus loquitur_, "the parrot
talks"; but this thing seemed to be a whale; it was very like one."

"It was a whale," said Fiona. "He said his great-great-grandmother had
seen the Spanish captain land his doubloons, and that it was in the
west cave on Scargill Island."

"That means the big cave at the end facing the sea," said the boy.

"The cave that no one has ever got to the end of," said Fiona.

"The cave that's haunted," said the boy.

"But of course it's haunted; it's the ghosts of the Spaniards. Silly
of us not to have guessed."

Fiona had a hazy recollection of things her father used to say.

"I expect the haunting is thousands of years older than the
Spaniards," she said. "Urchin, are you afraid of ghosts?"

"Not a bit," said the Urchin stoutly. "They would be splendid to throw
stones at. It wouldn't hurt them."

"Come on then, let's go," said the girl. "There's lots of daylight."

"None of the people here will go into it, you know," said the Urchin.

"I know," said Fiona. "All the more reason for going on our own. There
might really be something there, if no one ever goes to take it away."

So the boat was launched, and the adventure also. Fiona pulled stroke;
the Urchin was a clumsy and unpunctual bow, and the girl had to steer
from the stroke oar, which needs more doing than you may think if you
haven't tried it. But they made the end of Scargill in time, and then
Fiona took both the oars and coasted, while the Urchin got out a
couple of bamboo poles, garnished with white flies, and let the casts
trail, occasionally getting one of the beautiful little scarlet lythe,
that came at the fly with the spring and dash of a sea trout. For even
adventurers need supper. And so they came, past many a smaller cave
mouth in the black side of the island, to the huge bluff that fronts
the full Atlantic, and the great west cave.

Atlantic was half asleep to-day, and muttered drowsily to the quiet
rocks outside. But the great cave was seldom quiet. In the winter,
when Atlantic turned himself restlessly and spoke aloud, the sound of
his speaking came back from its depths like the roar of a heavy gun;
and even in the stillness the lisp of the swell in it echoed as from
the roots of the island in a low intermittent boom. Outside, on the
calm water, floated the whiskered head of a seal, watching the boat
with gentle, fearless eyes,--"the officer on guard," Fiona
whispered;--and from the black cliff's face, like a hanging fringe
over the mouth of the cave, the water splashed down, trickle by
trickle, in quick, heavy drops. The children rowed in through the
little shower, and Fiona paddled gently up the cave. Its huge
limestone walls stood up stark on either hand, rising into the
darkness above, and sinking below into the green water, as far as eye
could follow them. Near the water-line grew a little seaweed, and some
white whelks clung; but as they went down the waterway these vanished,
and gray cliff and green water alike began to turn black. Looking
back, Fiona could see a bright patch, a patch of sky and
sky-reflecting sea, framed in the narrow slit of the cave's mouth. The
waterway was narrowing now; she shipped her oars and stood up, using
one as a paddle, and instructing the Urchin how to fend off the boat's
stern with his hands. In front, on a ledge in the cave's roof, it was
just possible to make out a row of blue dots in the growing darkness;
as the boat drew nearer, the blue dots fluttered, detached themselves
from the cliff, and a swarm of pigeons came whirring over the boat and
down the cave toward the sunlight;--"Your ghosts, Urchin," said the
girl. Henceforward the cave was void of life, unless some strange,
eyeless fish lurked in its inky depths. Darker and darker grew the
waterway, and the last gleam of light vanished. Fiona was feeling her
way now, aided by the phosphorescent drip from her oar blade; the
Urchin, with unusual sense, splashed his hands in the water to
increase the pale glow, which just revealed the line of the cliff.
Neither dare speak now; possibly, had Fiona not had some idea of what
was coming, she would have turned. But already there was a faint gleam
ahead, faint as a glow worm, but still a gleam; and as the boat slid
forward, and the low boom in the depths of the cave grew closer, the
cave walls very slowly began to grow gray again out of the blackness.
A few minutes more, and the walls were an outline, and before them, a
fringe of white on round wet stones, the end of the waterway. And as
the boat grounded, Fiona pointed up, and the Urchin, looking, saw a
little round hole; a natural shaft ran down into the cave from the
surface of the island, giving light enough for their eyes, now
accustomed to the darkness, to distinguish outlines.

They drew their boat up on the stones far enough for the swell not to
dislodge it; then the same impulse seized them both and they burst out
laughing, not aloud, for something in the place made it impossible to
laugh or talk aloud, but in a kind of mirthless whisper.

"We've come without any lights," said Fiona in an undertone.

"We have," said the Urchin. "But probably the stuff is only a few
yards above high-water mark; they wouldn't go far in."

"They might have," said Fiona; "they'd have had torches or
something."

"Let's go as far as we can, anyway, as we are here," said the Urchin.

So they started scrambling over the stones in the gray half-light.
Presently there rose before them a great mass of rock and earth, half
blocking the cave; it looked like some old landslip.

"It's easy at this end, Fiona," said the boy; and up they went, to
find that the rock barrier blocked most of what little light remained.
Beyond was darkness.

"We must go back and get light," said Fiona. "I can't even see the
stones below." A pause; then, "Stop swinging your feet, Urchin; I want
to listen."

"I'm not," said the Urchin.

Another pause, and then the Urchin spoke again, in a kind of stage
whisper, "I'm frightened." The words seemed squeezed out of him.

"We may as well go back, anyhow," said Fiona, in a strained voice.
"Down you go, Urchin."

The Urchin did go down at a considerable pace, and ran for the boat.
Fiona managed to walk, by repeating to herself all the time under her
breath, "You mustn't run, you mustn't run." But once in the boat she
did not rebuke the Urchin for standing up and taking the other oar;
and the pair paddled out, with many bumpings and scrapings, in a more
speedy and less scientific manner than that in which they had entered.

Once out in the sunlight they felt better. They started automatically
to fish home, and presently were talking again. But neither of them
referred to the thing that was uppermost in each mind, though each was
wondering if the other knew. For as they had sat on the wall of rock,
each had heard clearly, in the utter darkness of the unvisited cave,
the sound of heavy footsteps.



CHAPTER IV

THE URCHIN VANISHES


To most people there is some corner of the earth which means more than
all others; and there are two or three in the world whose holy place
is the old house on the sea-loch which the Student's humbler neighbors
called the "big house." An old square building of gray stone, that
matches the gray sky and the gray sea, it has small claims to beauty;
it was built in the days of blank windows, and every wind in the
island meets and screams round the battered iron balustrade which
leads up its steps to the door, and strives to tear down the tendrils
of ivy that cling to the east front. To the south front, lashed by the
full Atlantic gales, not even ivy can cling; only a few twisted elders
and stunted planes grow there, and take the first force of the winter
wind; but the old lawn to the north bursts in summer into a cloud of
white marguerites, whose ethereal beauty at sunset is like the ghosts
of the dreams that haunt the place. For to some of us the old house is
full of dreams, that cling to the dark passages and the uneven floors,
and play in and out of the little windows that are still propped open
with wood, as they were a hundred years ago; dreams of the bright
lights and the bright voices that greeted us, coming in out of the
blinding rain; dreams of the dance and the song, songs of old lost
causes from which all bitterness has died away, leaving to-day nothing
but beauty behind them; dreams of faded joys and forgotten sorrows, of
loves that have passed elsewhere and of memories that abide; dreams of
faces that are seen no more. Some day it will change ownership; it
will be sold to someone from whom understanding of these things has
been withheld, and who will see only the darkness of the old
corridors, the shabbiness of the old doorway; and he will build new
doors, and porticoes and a wide verandah, and make it fair within and
without, levelling the floors and trimming the lawns; and he will have
destroyed the old house and the fragrance of it, and it will never
return. But to-day it still stands as it has stood for many a long
year, clothed in the memories that never leave it and rich in all that
the past has built into it; and to some who may never dwell there
again it is yet ever present as the home of their hearts' desire, a
true house of faery.

The Student had let the old house to the Urchin's father. He was a
tall, thin man with a hooked nose, and he knew more about one
particular family of Coleoptera than anyone living. He had taken the
place, not because he wanted it for its shooting, but because one of
the beetles of his family was reputed to be plentiful in the
neighborhood. He was never there long; he was never anywhere long. For
thirty years he had pursued his beetles over five continents; his
measurements of their wing cases alone filled nine enormous MS.
volumes. His great work on the variation of the length of the wing
case in beetles kept in captivity had become a classic. Scientific men
had nothing but praise for the book; several even read it. The
majority believed that he had re-founded Neo-Mendelism past any
overthrowing; a small but persistent minority argued that, on the
contrary, he had utterly overthrown the Neo-Mendelians. All, however,
agreed that the book was epoch-making, even though they differed
utterly as to the sort of epoch which it made. The author himself was
a shy and modest person, who never lost his temper except when people
sent him unpaid parcels from Timbuctoo or Khamchatka containing
beetles of other families in which he took no interest. On the rare
occasions when he could be induced to go into society, kind-hearted
hostesses, who saw no reason why one crawling thing should not do as
well as another had been known to try to please him by starting a
conversation about ladybirds or earwigs; and it was said to be worth
foregoing one's cigar to hear him explain, with a chuckle, that though
earwigs or ladybirds were no doubt meritorious creatures in their
several spheres, and possibly legitimate objects of study to others,
they were not his subject; his subject was a particular family of
Coleoptera. He and the Student had become great friends, and when he
was in the island he would often drop in to see the Student's bookroom
after dinner and there the two would sit, one on either side of the
fire, each smoking at a tremendous pace and talking hard on his own
subject. Neither ever expected an answer from the other; neither ever
got one. But they had silently established an unwritten law that when
one had talked for three minutes by the clock on the mantelpiece he
was to stop and let the other have a turn; and when at last they said
good night, each felt that they had both had a thoroughly enjoyable
evening. And so they had.

Unlike to unlike. The Urchin's father had married the daughter of a
stockbroker, who, on her death, had left him two legacies; one was the
Urchin, and the other was an occasional visitation from her brother
Jeconiah. Mr. Jeconiah P. Johnson, the well-known promoter of
companies, was a short, stout man with a red face and a shifty blue
eye, always immaculately dressed in broadcloth with a huge expanse of
white waistcoat, over which sprawled his double watch chain and his
triple chin. There were possibly some good points even about Jeconiah,
if anything so rotund could be said to have points; but there were
certainly not many. He was supposed by some to possess what is called
"a high standard of business morality"; it would be truer to say that
his code was prehistoric. He had so far kept himself right with the
law, because he had mastered the sordid maxim which proclaims that
honesty is the best policy; no other reason was likely to occur to
him. With some effort he had succeeded in formulating a rule of
conduct of which he was rather proud: Do good to yourself and your
friends and evil to those who stand in your way. If anyone had told
him that the philosophy of ethics took its rise, some twenty-two
centuries ago, in a reaction against a similar rule, he would have
remarked jocosely that he never studied back numbers. Of anything more
exalted than "policy," anything not to be reckoned in terms of £.s.d.,
he was as ignorant as a hippopotamus.

He was never very fond of his right hand's knowing what his left hand
did; for while the right hand promoted companies, the left hand, by
means of a manager and a registered alias, carried on a very useful
little money-lender's business. He was never averse to putting the
screw on, if there was anything to be got by it; and sometimes he got
rather funny things. Recently he had had a broken debtor on his hands,
and had taken what he could get; among other things, an old bureau
full of papers. Jeconiah, being a methodical soul, had turned a clerk
on to sort the papers; and the clerk had presently brought him the
long lost map of the Scargill cave, and a sheet of paper containing
somebody's rough explanation of what it was supposed to be. Jeconiah,
who had heard the story, scented possibilities, and, it being a slack
time in the City, promptly invited himself to his brother-in-law's
house to recover from an attack of influenza. That is how Jeconiah
comes into this story. It could not be helped, for he had the map. The
finner had said he was too fat to count; but that is where the finner
was wrong.

Jeconiah forthwith gave his mind, such as it was, to the subject of
caves. Diffidence was not his failing, and he cross-examined every
person he could find, concealing, of course, his real object. He
collected a splendid amount of rubbish; but he was acute enough where
his pocket was concerned, and out of the rubbish he presently dragged
forth the fact of the haunted cave which no one would enter. Whereon
Jeconiah went over to Scargill to fish, and had a look at the lie of
the island; settled with himself that it seemed a good enough place
for a wreck, and told the keeper to row him into the west cave. But
the keeper, who had no particular liking for Jeconiah, refused
point-blank, and told him he would not find a man in the island who
would do it; and Jeconiah, who had suddenly lost interest in the
fishing, went home in a bad temper. This happened the day after the
two children were in the cave; and the day after that the Urchin's
father received an excited cablegram from Brazil on the subject of his
beloved beetles. He rushed down at once to see the Student.

"I am going to Brazil, I don't know for how long," he said. "And my
boy can't go back to school for a month or more, as they have scarlet
fever in the village there. And I don't like to leave him with the
housekeeper, and I start in two hours. Will you take him?"

"Delighted," said the Student. "Fiona will look after him."

So the Urchin came, and with him came to Fiona a sense of
responsibility for him. She couldn't help it.

But Jeconiah showed no intention of moving. On the contrary, the
after-effects of influenza were still troubling him sorely, it seemed.
At last the Urchin's father had to tell him to stay a week or two
longer, if he wanted to; the servants would be there anyhow. And
Jeconiah thanked him and settled down to stay, as he had meant to do
all along. But as soon as his brother-in-law was gone he took the car
and went off for the day. The chauffeur said that he went to a lot of
places and talked to a lot of people; and a couple of days later two
strange men in a boat entered the bay and proceeded to camp out on a
part of the shore which was not the Student's property. Jeconiah had,
in fact, hired the boat, and found a couple of ne'er-do-wells from the
mainland who knew nothing of him and were ready to row him anywhere in
pursuit of his business, which was understood to be photographing wild
birds for an illustrated paper.

Jeconiah had, however, made one great mistake. He was aware that you
must not neglect little things, and he had neglected quite a big
little thing--the Urchin. He had never spoken to him about caves, or
taken the least notice of the boy's movements. And the Urchin on his
side had been hard at work. He had confessed to Fiona on the subject
of the footsteps, and she to him; and they had agreed, under the broad
healthy light of day, that probably they had been mistaken and afraid
of the dark, and that with lanterns it would be all right. They
agreed, however, that it was necessary to have a really good light,
and the difficulty was to find one. It was the Urchin who came forward
as the saviour of society by proposing to win over Jones, the
chauffeur, and get the loan of one of the big acetylene head-lamps
from the car. Jones, a newcomer, had not yet heard about the cave,
and, being English, he had not yet found his feet among his fellows
and was glad of any sort of diversion. The Urchin wound up a
triumphant half hour of diplomacy by making Jones promise to lend him
one of the headlights and show him how to work it. Then the Urchin
fell, as many greater men have fallen; he was lifted up with pride,
and told Jones that Fiona and he were going treasure-hunting. Jones
grinned; but that evening he talked; and in due course Jeconiah heard.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fiona was digging in her garden, or rather in the Urchin's, for she
had assigned him one bit of it, which she had to cultivate for him;
otherwise it would have run waste, for all the work the Urchin put
into it. Her garden was one corner of the old walled garden of the
Student's house, which was not very well kept now. Once it had been
gay with flowers and rich with fruit; but now few flowers grew there
save such as could look after themselves, and the fruit had come down
to two gnarled old apple trees, in which Fiona had made her earliest
experiments in climbing. Most of the ground, so far as it was in use,
was now given over to cabbages and potatoes; but in June the borders
were sweet with double white narcissus, and now in September there was
a revel of unpruned roses, their blooms growing smaller year by year,
and a mass of the dark-red blossoms of the little west coast fuchsia,
which knows how to live through the winter. One deserted corner was
gay with Turk's turban, which still had strength to push up through
the ever-thickening tangle of weeds; and groups of winter crocus were
coming up in the borders, and among them a few Shirley poppies which
Fiona had sown herself. Fiona had had thoughts of taking the garden in
hand, but the space enclosed by the old walls was far too large for
her to manage unaided; and as there was no money to pay a proper
gardener, she had had to content herself with clearing one corner.
Here she had achieved a riot of color. She had made a little rockery
of oak-leaf and beech ferns brought down from the hill, sentinelled by
tall pink foxgloves; the worn-out plum trees against the wall behind
were threaded and festooned with thick trailers of yellow and scarlet
nasturtium; and in front of the rockery, her especial pride, was a
great bed of velvet pansies, rich with every hue of the rainbow. They
were flanked by simple annuals, filmy pink poppies, orange escholtzias
and sweet-scented mignonette; and in a bed by themselves were the gold
and crimson snapdragons which the Urchin had begged for her from the
gardener at the big house.

She must needs dig up a centipede, one of the small yellow ones. They
were her special dislike. The centipede did not like being dug up
either, and writhed himself into seven different sets of tangles at
once, as is the way of the smaller centipedes.

"You horrid little yellow beast," she said, forgetting that he could
understand, and made a dab at him with her spade, which, to her
relief, missed him. She felt she had done her duty by hitting at him,
but did not hide from herself that she had really missed him on
purpose.

"Little's all right," said the centipede, "and yellow's all right; and
though I'm not really a beast, we will let it go at that. But I'm not
a bit horrid."

"But I don't like you," said Fiona, "and you wriggle so."

"In the circles in which I move," said the centipede, "my wriggling is
much admired. And the mere fact that you do not like me--which, I may
remind you, is only a subjective impression and has neither objective
validity nor permanent value--does not entitle you to call me names.
You ought to have learnt better, with that bangle of yours. For all
you know, I may be a model of the more unselfish virtues."

"But you eat the roots of my flowers," said Fiona.

"That is the first I have heard of it," said the centipede. "But one
lives and learns. It need not be the same one, though, who does both.
So in the present case I propose that I should live and you should
learn."

"I wasn't going to kill you really," said Fiona.

The centipede bowed.

"A little courtesy does oil the creaking machinery of life, doesn't
it?" he said. "Please lift me up, for I have something to tell you,
and your head is so far away. Shouting at you hurts my throat."

Fiona stooped down and took up the little yellow creature in her hand.

"Congratulations," said the centipede. "We _are_ getting on. You
wanted badly to shudder, and you didn't. We shall make something of
you yet. My old friend the bookworm--who lives in your father's
library, by the way--has recently supplied me with a new quotation
from the great poet Virgil, who had once, you may remember, quite a
reputation as a magician. It was to the effect that if you couldn't
get what you wanted by beginning at the top, you should start again at
the bottom. I am the bottom. I am not the _very_ bottom, but I am near
enough to it for your purpose. Now you see what you have gained by
not killing me."

"I don't see anything yet, I'm afraid," said Fiona.

"One must have patience with weaker vessels," said the centipede. "So
I will explain. My friend the bookworm, who supplies me with my
quotations, has a cousin of the same profession in the library at the
big house. It was through him that I got the story I am going to tell
you about the fat man."

"Mr. Johnson!" exclaimed Fiona. "He has nothing to do with me." She
disliked Jeconiah heartily, so far as she had given any thought to
him.

"Oh, yes, he has," said the centipede. "This is where I come in. My
bookworm's cousin, who is a great linguist and understands English
perfectly, was at work in the library the other evening, and the fat
man was having his coffee there. After coffee he lit a cigar and began
to walk up and down, and presently he started talking to himself out
loud, as my informant says he often does when he is excited. And by
piecing his talk together, my informant made out that he had the map
of the Scargill cave, which one of your ancestors once gambled away,
and that somehow or other he had found out that the cave of the map
_was_ the Scargill cave, and that he was only waiting for a smooth day
to go and locate the treasure."

"Well?" said Fiona.

"Oh, come now," said the centipede, "it's no use pretending. We all
know that you are treasure-hunting--remember we can all understand
everything _you_ say, whether we are linguists or not--and my advice
to you is, to be quick about it, before the fat man can get his oar
in."

"Thank you so much," said Fiona. "And I am so sorry I began by being
rude. Tell me, why have you told me all this when I began by being
rude?"

"Because I am a model of the more unselfish virtues, of course," said
the centipede with a suppressed chuckle. "As a fact, I had an
earth-phone from headquarters. But we are all backing you, you know.
And now will you put me down, please; the upper air is chilly."

He wriggled into a crack in the ground, and was gone.

That evening Fiona and the Urchin made their final preparations, in
case the morrow should fall calm. That evening also Jeconiah heard
that he had rivals in the field. His language, as he walked up and
down the library, would have been very bad for the bookworm's morals
had that intelligent insect been able to understand it all; but the
bookworm's English, though good, was literary, and much of the modern
idiom employed by Jeconiah slid off its back. Jeconiah's plan had been
to make sure that the gold was there, and then charter a launch from
Glasgow and take it straight to railway-head; he saw now that he could
not afford the time, and that unless he could deal with the children
in some way he might have to take the gold off in his boat, which
would entail some risk, as well as cost him a heavy sum to buy his two
boatmen. Also he made up his mind that he must go the next morning,
whatever the weather, if it were possible to launch the boat; he knew
that the children, with their little skiff, could only go to sea on
calm days.

Unfortunately for Jeconiah, the night fell calm, and though he rose
early, he had no notion of starting without a good breakfast. By the
time his boat was launched and he himself aboard, he had the pleasure
of seeing through his glasses the children's boat off the east or
nearer end of Scargill. The wealth of adjectives which he employed in
the circumstances filled his two loafers with awe and admiration.

Fiona, having the Urchin securely under her roof, had breakfasted
before dawn, and as soon as it was light enough the children launched
their little boat. The Urchin had the precious headlight, ready
charged, tied up in an old sack which would also serve to bring away
the plunder; and round his waist he had twisted a length of cast-off
rope. Its use was not apparent, but he thought it looked
business-like. They saw that Jeconiah's boat was still drawn up
ashore, and in good heart they started on their long pull. They had
reached the island before Jeconiah had his boat out; having no
glasses, they could not see if it was being launched or not. But off
the eastern end of the island, which is low and grassy, they had a
fright, for an empty boat was drawn ashore there. However, when they
rowed close in to look at it, Fiona recognized it.

"It's Angus MacEachan's boat," she said. "He has come to see after the
sheep he has on the island. There he is, I can see him; he has got a
sheep that has hurt its foot." And indeed they could see Angus tending
a sick sheep.

"Fiona," said the boy, "we are too silly for anything. Of course the
footsteps we heard in the cave were Angus's. There is another way in
somewhere, and he would be looking for a sheep."

Fiona said nothing. As they neared the cave, the problem of the
footsteps kept intruding itself more and more vividly upon her; but
the Urchin was happy in his theory, and she did not think it necessary
to remind him that the footsteps could not possibly have been those of
Angus, who walked with a limp. She began to feel a vague sense of
disquiet, which she tried in vain to put aside.

They entered the cave, and the Urchin, with much pride, lit his great
lamp. The powerful burner threw a wonderful circle of light on to
black water and black walls, making them glow and sparkle with a soft
radiance till they looked like the very gateway of fairyland. Outside
the circle everything became black as pitch. They paddled quietly up
the bright waterway, and grounded on the stones at the end. The Urchin
was hot after his long row, and helping to draw the boat up on the
stones did not make him any cooler; he took off his jacket and pitched
it on to a thwart.

"Yes, it is hot, and stuffy," said Fiona. She recollected some story
she had read about a coal mine, and sniffed. "I hope there is no gas
here," she said.

The Urchin grinned.

"Oh, you girls!" he said. "Who ever heard of gas in a sea cave. What
you are smelling is the lamp."

Fiona took the lamp up.

"I'm going to take charge of this myself," she said. "You can carry
the treasure."

The Urchin picked up the sack and threw it over his shoulder.

"Go ahead, lady with the lamp," he said, and grinned again. He felt
very adventurous. He would rather have liked to be photographed.

With considerable caution, necessitated by the heavy lamp, they
climbed the rock barrier and descended into the darkness of the inner
cave. The walking was better here; the rounded slippery boulders had
given place to a floor of pebbles and sand. Quite a short way from the
barrier the wall of the cave curved away in a semicircle on the
right, its smooth surface forming a kind of small recess. Fiona swept
the recess with her lamp, and on the sandy floor something gleamed
back; the Urchin pounced on it and picked it up. It was a gold coin,
not the least like any which the children had ever seen. It was, in
fact, a doubloon.

"This must be one of them," said the boy exultantly as he pocketed it;
"one that got dropped. Come on, it can't be much farther."

But Fiona held the lamp steady and stared at the sand.

"Look at the marks on the sand," she said. "They are like the marks of
heavy boxes. The treasure has been here, Urchin, and it's not here
now. Someone has been here and taken it, and dropped one piece."

"I don't think so," said the Urchin. "We shall find them a bit farther
on."

So they went on, but not very far. For the light of the lamp suddenly
fell on a rock wall before them, the end of the cave. And it had
ended, not as the other caves do, by the roof growing lower and lower
till it meets the floor; it had ended in this huge chamber of high
rocky walls.

"So this is the cave that no one has ever reached the end of," said
Fiona. "Why, it goes no distance at all."

They retraced their steps to the recess, and then back to the end
again, looking on this side and on that for openings, but it seemed
quite clear that there were none.

"The boxes must have been carried off by sea," said Fiona.

But the Urchin had an idea.

"No one would try to carry great heavy boxes over the rock barrier,"
he said. "They'd just take the gold out in sacks."

"The barrier may be a rock-fall," said Fiona. "The treasure may all
have been cleared out long ago."

And then there came to the Urchin the realization of the fact that he
had lost his gun. He turned very red.

"It's a shame," he said angrily, "an awful shame. It was given to me,
and someone has taken it. Can't you think where it could be, Fiona?
I'd go _anywhere_ to find it."

Whatever Fiona may have been going to say, her words tailed off into
sudden silence. For from beyond the cave wall, as it seemed, sounded
again the footsteps which they had heard before; and this time they
knew that there was no cave there, and that It was walking through
solid rock as if along a road. There was no question this time of any
concealment or pretence; both frankly turned tail and made for the
rock barrier. Halfway there the Urchin tripped and fell heavily on his
head. Fiona put the lamp down and helped him up, dizzy and shaking.

"Can you go on, Urchin?" she said. "If not, I'll try and carry you."

The Urchin looked back into the blackness, unrelieved by any ray of
the lamp, which faced the other way. The footsteps were steadily
drawing nearer, neither hasting nor staying. What the Urchin may have
thought he saw Fiona could not guess; he gave one shriek, slid out of
her grasp, and bolted for the rock barrier as fast as his trembling
feet would carry him.

For one moment Fiona all but followed him. Then it suddenly came to
her that she was responsible for the boy's safety. She never knew
afterwards how she managed to do what she did; but she turned, and
with the courage of utter desperation--the courage which enables the
hen partridge to face the sparrow hawk--stood at bay, swinging up the
heavy lamp to see and face whatever should come.

And into the circle of lamplight quietly walked the figure of the old
hawker.

The revulsion of feeling was too much for Fiona. She sprang forward
and caught the old man's hand and clung to it.

"Oh," she said, "I'm so glad it's you. We heard the footsteps and we
were so frightened." The relief of it all was overwhelming; she was
almost crying, and went on saying anything, hardly knowing what she
said, just for the mere human companionableness of it. "How did you
come here? I suppose you came over with Angus in his boat. Of course
you would. Then there must be another way into the cave after all, and
we couldn't find it."

"And so I frightened you?" said the old man gently, making no effort
to withdraw his hand. "Yes, there is another way in." He made no
attempt to answer all her questions.

"Urchin," called Fiona, raising her voice. "Urchin, come back; it's
all right."

But there was no answer.

"Urchin," she shouted; "Urchin."

But there was no answer save the echoing of the empty cave.

"He was going down to the boat," she said, loyally repressing the fact
that the Urchin had bolted. "We must go after him, for he had hurt his
head, and I am afraid of his falling again."

They climbed the rock barrier, and made their way to the boat. The
boat lay there as it had been left, half ashore, with the swell
rippling against the stern, and over one thwart the Urchin's jacket,
just as he had thrown it down. And the boat was as empty as the cave.

Into Fiona's eyes came a sudden fear.

"He must have fallen again, and be lying somewhere," she said.

They went back, searching every nook and corner of the cave, turning
the light into every crevice, under every rock, making a minute
examination of the rock barrier; and there was no sign.

And then Fiona broke down.

"He is drowned," she said, and just sat and sobbed.

After a few moments the old man came and sat down beside her. In his
gentle voice he said that the Urchin could not possibly be drowned.
The water was quite shallow at the edge, and he was a good swimmer,
was he not? And even if he had not been, the swell would have rolled
him ashore. He himself had no doubt that all would come right.

Fiona ceased sobbing and turned on him.

"Do you know where he is?" she demanded bluntly.

"How would I know when you do not know?" said the old man. "Could I
see what you could not see?" And then "Listen."

Down the waterway came voices, and the sound of oars. It was in fact
Jeconiah's boat entering the cave.

Fiona caught at the straw.

"He may have swum out to the other boat," she said.

But there was no one in the other boat but Jeconiah and his two men.
They had powerful lanterns, and the boat was full of sacks. Jeconiah
himself was purple with suppressed rage and impatience. The moment he
could get ashore, he waddled up to Fiona and shook the map of the cave
in her face, exclaiming, "Remember, if you have found anything it
belongs to me and I claim it."

Fiona had only one thought in her mind at the moment, and the foolish
impertinence of the little fat man was to her merely so much
unnecessary sound. Her answer was "Have you seen the Urchin? We have
lost him. Did he not swim out to your boat?" She was almost sobbing
again.

"Confound the brat!" said Jeconiah roughly. "I've not come here to
play hide-and-seek with a parcel of children. Tell me at once what
you've found."

Fiona straightened herself, and looked at Jeconiah as though he were
some noxious reptile.

"There was nothing here to find," she said. "And this cave belongs to
my father. And anything in it he gave to the Urchin."

"Well, he's not here," said Jeconiah brutally, "and I am. Who finds,
keeps."

And calling to his men to bring the lights, he set off, between
stumbling and crawling, for the rock barrier. One of the men had the
decency to stop a moment and tell Fiona that they had seen nothing of
any boy; Jeconiah turned and abused him for a laggard.

With a good deal of difficulty the two men hoisted and shoved Jeconiah
over the rock barrier. Once over, he took a light himself, told the
men to wait where they were, and after a good look at the map set out
for the recess where the Urchin had found the doubloon. Fiona followed
him; there was some vague idea in her mind of protecting the Urchin's
property; behind that there was still a faint subconscious hope that
in some way or other the Urchin would suddenly reappear, and laugh at
her terrors.

Jeconiah reached the recess. He saw and understood the marks of the
boxes on the sand. He swung round on Fiona with a snarl like that of a
hungry wolf.

"You think you're clever, don't you, you and your father," he said. "I
suppose you've had the stuff moved. But I'll have it if I go to the
middle of the earth for it."

It was the old hawker who shouted. He had stood apart, a silent
spectator of the scene. And at this moment he called out, in a voice
of surprising power for so frail a body:

"Look out above you. Jump."

Fiona, who had learned to obey, jumped back just in time. But Jeconiah
had never learnt to obey any orders but his own. He stood, stupidly
staring, as a bit of the roof of the cave bowed downward, gave way,
and came cascading about him in a shower of earth and big stones, that
filled the air with thick dust. When the dust cleared again, they saw
Jeconiah lying on his back in the middle of the cliff fall,
motionless, and to all appearance dead.

But Fiona was not looking at Jeconiah. She was looking at the place
where the roof of the cave had bowed itself before falling; and into
her mind came crowding dim forgotten legends, legends of fear and
hope. And she was saying over and over again to herself, as though she
might miss its purport, that behind the cliff fall, as if impelling
and directing it, she had seen a small brown elfin hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the old hawker who took charge of the situation. The two men,
who at first had looked as if they would run, became amenable when he
spoke to them. They carried Jeconiah's body to his boat, and laid it
in the stern-sheets. One of the men pointed out that there was no mark
at all on his face or head, and that he did not believe he had been
struck.

"Died of fright, I expect," he said curtly.

"Lucky we stood out for wages in advance," said his companion. It
looked as if this might be Jeconiah's fitting epitaph.

The old man himself went with Fiona in her boat. But he was too feeble
to row far, so he landed on the island and went in search of Angus. In
due course Angus came down and rowed Fiona home, saying that the old
man was going to look after his sheep for him till he returned. It did
not occur to Fiona, until they had gone too far to turn back, that it
looked as though the old man wished to avoid questions. Her mind was
in a helpless whirl in which everything seemed unreal, except the
Urchin and that small brown hand. She could not give her father any
very coherent account of what had happened; but he went out at once to
find a boat and men to search the cave.

Jeconiah was laid on his bed in the big house, and there was much
commotion there; this one must go for the doctor and that one for the
Student; scared maids stood and whispered in the corridors; the two
loafers, heroes of the hour, feasted happily in the kitchen. Then the
doctor came, and went upstairs with a grave face, as befitted the
occasion; but he did not come down again, and surmise grew. Half an
hour passed before the door opened, and the doctor, smiling and
rubbing his hands together, came into the library, where the Student
had just entered and was talking to the housekeeper.

"He's not dead at all," said the doctor. "It's catalepsy--suspended
animation, you know. Like the frog in the marble. Had a shock, you
tell me? Just so, just so. How long? Oh, he may be an hour, and he
may be a month; no one can ever say. Never had the good luck to see a
case before. Not _very_ uncommon, no. Mustn't try to rouse him, you
know; might be dangerous. Just wait. Send for me at once if he comes
to. Can get two nurses to watch him, if you like; just as well
perhaps. Sometimes they are odd when they wake; think they are someone
else for a bit, you know, change their habits, and so on. Dual
personality? Oh, yes, several well-attested cases; but I don't mean as
much as that. Might arise this way, of course; but what I mean is more
just queer. But of course he need not be; might wake up as if he'd
been asleep. If it lasts long, take away all the almanacs and things,
in case he gets a shock. Well, good day, good day."

And the doctor went; and Jeconiah's body lay still on the bed, waiting
till his soul, if he had one, should return to it.

So the Student went home again; and on his way he met the old hawker,
who stopped and spoke to him; and for a few moments the two walked
together, the old man talking rather quickly. Fiona, watching from the
window of the bookroom, could see that her father first looked puzzled
and then grave and then considerably relieved; in a dim kind of way
she found herself thinking that Angus must have rowed back very fast
to Scargill, if the old hawker were already landed. She was wondering
who he really was and why her father talked to him.

"Tell Anne to get us something to eat--anything," said the Student.
"The boat will be here directly."

The Student, by straining what remained of old loyalty as far as he
dared, had found half a dozen volunteers, good men, to face the
haunted cave, provided he went himself.

"Do you want to come, Fiona?" he said. Of course Fiona meant to come.

And while they waited, the Student questioned Fiona, and had the whole
story coherently, except the hand. That part Fiona felt she could not
tell; there, in the cheerful bookroom, it seemed so impossible. Once
or twice he nodded, and said, "That would be so"; and at the end he
pointed out that whatever had happened had happened when her back was
turned, as she faced the coming footsteps. She had not thought of
that. What puzzled her, and hurt her a little, was that, though her
father seemed to feel for _her_, he did not appear to be particularly
concerned about the Urchin. "I believe it will come right," was all he
said.

The boat arrived, rowed by strong hands; the men worked with a will,
and the distance to the cave seemed short. They had brought good
lights, and the Student had a powerful electric torch. High and low
they searched the cave, and found nothing. One man, who was a good
swimmer, dived several times and found nothing there either. Tracking
footsteps was impossible; the sand, where there was any, had been
hopelessly trampled.

When nothing more could be done, the Student said that he wanted to
look for a thing himself which he had an idea of. He went down to the
end of the cave with his torch and tapped the wall with a geological
hammer. Fiona sat on the rock barrier and watched him; what he was
seeking she had no idea. He came slowly back down the cave, tapping
the wall, till he reached the recess where the Urchin had picked up
the doubloon. He went straight to the back of the recess and tapped
the wall there; and even as he did so a large piece of stone fell from
above, and smashed the electric torch in his hand. He came back to the
rock barrier quite unperturbed, looking as if he had found what he
sought.

"Not very safe, this cave," he said calmly; and told the men to push
off the boat. "There is nothing more we can do," he said; "the boy is
certainly not here."

The men's courage was fast ebbing away; they were glad to get out of
the haunted place.

Fiona sat in silence all the way home. It was dark before they
reached the house. She waited while Anne bustled over supper; she
thought she would never see her father alone. At last supper was over,
and he went into the bookroom and began to light his pipe; she
followed him. Her words came out in a torrent.

"Daddy," she said, "what does it all mean? and why are you so strange
and unconcerned? What did that old man tell you? If I couldn't see,
_he_ must have seen, for he was facing. What is it you know? And why
have you told me nothing?"

"Sit down, little daughter," said the Student. He drew her beside his
knee, with her head on his arm. "I will tell you now what I can. The
old man gave me a sort of hint. He did not really see, for the lamp
was the other way; I fancy he guessed. I wanted to test what he said
to me. I have tested it now with my hammer; it all agrees. I am
absolutely certain that no harm has come to the Urchin. But I can do
nothing for him myself. And I must not even tell you what I think;
for if I do it ruins everything. All I may tell you is this, that you
are the only person who can do anything. You will have to do it all
yourself and by yourself, little daughter. I believe you have ways and
means of your own of finding out. Are you going through with it,
Fiona?"

"Of course I am, daddy," she said. "How can I do anything else? If
only I knew what it is I have to do to find him--how to begin even."

"I cannot even tell you that," said the Student. But his fingers
played with the copper bangle on her wrist. And out of some dim corner
of subconsciousness she seemed to hear a small voice which said "If
you can't get what you want by beginning at the top you must start
again at the bottom." Her father, with his learning, was the top; the
bottom . . . ?

Fiona went to bed less miserable than she had expected.



CHAPTER V

THE OREAD


Fiona was out long before breakfast next morning, digging furiously in
her garden. Not many minutes passed before she was rewarded by a glint
of something yellow in a shovelful of earth, and there was the
centipede.

"You dear creature," she said, and caught it up quickly before it
could wriggle away.

"How polite we are this morning," said the centipede, swelling with
conscious pride. "I suppose we want something."

Fiona's mind was far too completely taken up with her one object to
notice or resent any insinuations.

"Yes, I do," she said. "You told me that if I could not get what I
wanted by beginning at the top I must start again at the bottom. I
can do nothing from the top this time, so I've come to you."

"Flattered, to be sure," said the centipede. "How frank we are."

"Please don't be cross," said Fiona, humbly. "I am only doing what you
told me to do."

"Bless you, child, I'm not cross," said the centipede. "I'm a
philosopher."

"Don't philosophers get cross?" asked the girl.

"Never," said the centipede. "And when they do they call it something
else. What's the matter with me is, that I've sprained my seventh
ankle on bow side, counting from the tail. Don't say you're sorry, for
you're not. Anyone can see you're not."

"You are horrid to-day," said Fiona. "And the other day you were so
nice."

"That's what makes me such a charming companion," said the centipede.
"You never know what to expect. So I never pall."

"I want to know where the Urchin is, and how I am to find him," said
Fiona.

"Is that all?" said the centipede. "Fancy interrupting my breakfast on
account of that boy. Well, one question at a time. We'll have the last
one first; I'm in that sort of mood to-day."

"How can I find the Urchin, then, please?" asked Fiona.

"Well, you've been told _that_ already," said the centipede. "Haven't
you a memory?"

Fiona thought and thought, but could make nothing of it.

"My friend the bookworm was there at the time," said the centipede,
"and heard the shore lark tell you that the last man went up a hill.
Very well. Go up a hill."

"But that was for something quite different," said Fiona. "That was
for my treasure. I am not thinking of any treasure now."

"Silly of you, then," said the centipede. "I would be. Ever studied
philosophy?"

"No," said Fiona.

"That's a pity," said the centipede. "Then you've never heard of Hegel
and the unity of opposites? Black and white are only different
aspects of the same thing, you know. And as soon as you begin to think
about it, you see at once how sensible it is. Well, a treasure-hunt
and a boy-hunt are only different aspects of a hunt, aren't they?
Therefore they are the same thing. Therefore what does for one does
for the other. Therefore you go up a hill. There's logic for you," and
once more he swelled proudly.

"Thank you very much," said Fiona. "And now will you please tell me
where the Urchin is?"

"Tell you!" exclaimed the centipede. "Why, it was you told me. You
prophesied the whole thing."

"I'm sure I don't remember it, then," said Fiona.

"What's the matter with _you_," said the centipede, "is that you
refuse to exert your intelligence, such as it is. You should take a
lesson by me. You humans are all forgetting nowadays that the spoken
word is an instrument of great power, and that once it is launched it
goes on and on, and can work magic on its own account, quite
independently of you. If you say a thing will happen, it frequently
does happen."

"But what did I say?" asked Fiona.

"You told the Urchin that if he hurt the shore lark the Little People
would take him. Well, they've taken him. That's all."

And the centipede slid down on to the ground, and with something like
a chuckle vanished. He had evidently learned from his philosophy to
bear with resignation the misfortunes of others.

But Fiona did not set off up a hill at once. After breakfast she went
to the bookroom and spoke to her father.

"I have found out where the Urchin is, daddy," she said. "He was
carried off by the fairies."

The Student showed no surprise.

"You have not been long finding out, Fiona," he said. "I thought you
had ways and means of your own."

"But, daddy," she said, "I don't _really_ believe it, you know. It
sounds so absurd nowadays. Do you believe it?"

"I believe it, yes," said the Student. "I knew yesterday. Now that you
know, I may talk to you about it, so far."

"I don't know that I do really know," she said. "Things like that
don't _really_ happen, do they? Whoever heard of it?"

"You and I have heard of it," he answered. "And that is enough. The
proposition that people are not carried off by fairies is a mere
working hypothesis, liable to be overthrown by any one case to the
contrary. Well, we've got a case to the contrary, and that's the end
of the hypothesis."

"I'm arguing against myself, daddy, you know," she said. "I want to
believe that we do know where he is."

"No difficulty at all," said the Student, "to anyone with a properly
trained mind, like yours and mine. Take it this way. No one has ever
crossed the South Arabian desert or explored the snow ranges of New
Guinea, have they? Well, for all anyone can say to the contrary,
people may be carried off by fairies every day of the week in New
Guinea or South Arabia, mayn't they? It may even be the rule there. It
may be a working hypothesis among the pygmies of New Guinea that such
a thing _always_ happens--at death, for instance. It would be just as
good a working hypothesis as it is that it _never_ happens."

"But, daddy, it would be so extraordinary, wouldn't it?"

"Not a bit more extraordinary," he said, "than the inside of a bit of
radium, or the inside of an egg, for that matter. It is probably
simpler for the Urchin to become a fairy than for an egg to become a
bird, or a caterpillar a butterfly. It would not be nearly as strange
as it is that there is a water beast which can shed its gills and
become a land beast, or that Uranus moons go round the wrong way. You
can't knock it out by any reasoning of that kind, Fiona. It's merely a
matter of fact; and if we have found a case we _have_ found a case."

"Then you knew yesterday, daddy?" she said.

"I had a very fair idea," he answered. "That is why I was tapping in
the cave with a hammer. Can you guess why?"

Fiona saw.

"To find the rest of the cave," she said. "That is where he would be."

"Just so," said the Student. "These caves cannot end in a wall, as
that one seems to. I thought the wall must ring hollow somewhere, and
the hollow is in the recess where the stone nearly fell on me. The
apparent end of the cave is not in the line of the true cave at all."

"It is the same place where the stones fell on Mr. Johnson," said
Fiona.

"That is strange," said the Student.

And then Fiona told about the hand she had seen.

"Of course, of course," said the Student. "That explains the whole
thing. They threw the stone down on me too. They did not wish me to
know that the wall was hollow just there. They must use it as a
doorway. They will have carried the boy through at the moment that you
turned your back, of course. I suppose he invited them in some way;
they could have no power otherwise."

"He said he would go _anywhere_ to find his treasure," said Fiona.

"That would be quite sufficient for them to act on," said the Student.

"Then the stories about the cruelty of the Little People are true,"
asked Fiona.

"Only in part," said the Student. "I take it that they are all sorts,
like ourselves. They are, as you know, the vanished débris of all the
peoples that have helped to make this planet what it is. Good people,
many of them. But they cannot altogether love those who have driven
them under the ground."

"And who is the old hawker, daddy," she asked, "and what has he to do
with it all?"

"I can't talk about anything except what you already know," said the
Student. "Have you found out yet how to start?"

"I am to go up a hill," said Fiona. "And I am going up Heleval now.
And I came to see if you would come with me."

"I wish I could; I wish very much I could," said the Student. "I do
not know what you may find; but I know well that if I went with you,
you would find nothing but grass and rock. I am too old to see the
things you can see, you know. You have to do it alone, little
daughter."

So Fiona filled her pocket with bread and cheese, and started; and the
Student, after a useless attempt to settle down to his inscriptions,
set up a little three-inch telescope with which he sometimes
entertained Fiona on fine nights, gazing at Jupiter's moons or
Saturn's rings, and followed her across the moor as far as he could.
It was the only way he could go with her.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are many worse things in the world than setting out to climb
Heleval on a beautiful morning on the first of October, when the grass
in unsunned corners is still pearly with the frost of the night, and
the whole earth is touched with the wonderful caress of the cool
autumn sunshine. Fiona's way lay along the shore road, past the bank
of heather and fern which in August had been gay with flowers, napperd
and potentilla, blue milkwort and starry eye-bright, and alive with
butterflies, blues and small heaths and pearl-bordered fritillaries;
but the flowers were faded now, and in their place, in the little burn
where the hazelnuts grew, was a tapestry of purple burrs and scarlet
hips. The shore road ended at a little burn; here an old stone bridge,
grown over with grass, crossed the pool which in times of spate would
hold a fat, white sea-trout, and here Fiona and the Urchin had used
to come in summer to gather globe flowers. From this point a sheep
track led up the valley beside the burn, through great spaces of
yellowing bracken, by little swampy springs where late forget-me-nots
still lingered and an early snipe might rise with a skeep, and across
low-lying wastes of bog-myrtle, perfuming all the air with its dying
leaves; then the ground began to rise, and fern and bog-myrtle gave
place to short, hard grass tufted with bulrushes, and beds of matted
unburnt heather, seamed with rabbit tracks.

After a time Fiona left the valley and began to climb the hillside,
rising steeply through heather and red grass and heather again, most
of it dying by now, but with patches still in full flower, worked by
the wild bees and making the moorland smell like a honey-pot. Then
more grass, and limestone ridges, and she stood on the crest of the
moor, which billowed away on her right, wave after wave, till it ran
down to the low ground and the sea, and rose up on her left till it
ended in the great mass of Heleval, standing up into the cloudless
sky. The ground before her was scarred with deep peat-hags, their gray
banks touched with the tiny scarlet blossoms of the trumpet-moss,
while from their crumbling sides projected bits of the whitened trunks
of trees long since dead, last vestiges of the forests that had
clothed the island ere ever the Gael first fought his way in. Walking
became impossible, and she jumped from gray bank to gray bank,
occasionally floundering across a little lake of soft peat, where the
wild cotton grass still bloomed, and the mountain hares had left
telltale tracks. Now and again a hare itself would scurry away before
her up one of the peat ditches, rising to the moor level as soon as he
thought he was out of gunshot and sitting up on his haunches to watch;
now and again an old grouse, his head and hackles red as a berry in
the sunlight, would rise, crow, and swing away over the brow of the
moor. And presently from behind Heleval came drifting a gray bird
with a long bill who on hovering wings wheeled three times in the air
above her and gave his full spring call, the most wonderful sound that
the hills ever hear; then he stooped close over her head and with
wings spread sickle-wise shot away for the sea. One may see a curlew
on the moor in October, but he will not give his spring call; and
Fiona felt of good courage, for she knew that the bird had called for
her, to tell her she was in the right way.

So she came to the foot of Heleval itself, and started to climb the
steep slope of short grass, slippery as polished board, which led up
to the rock pinnacle above; the hillside twinkled with the white scuts
of rabbits racing up before her to their holes, as round the side of
the mountain came their enemy, perhaps the last kite in the island,
glittering in the sun as only a glede can, till the beautiful cowardly
creature caught sight of Fiona and swept away across the valley. She
passed the great cairn where the hill foxes live, and began the last
climb to the pinnacle of rock that fronts the flat crest of the
mountain. And now something white on the rock, which she had noticed
from below without taking account of, began to become insistent. It
could not possibly be a patch of snow yet, she thought. Perhaps the
shepherd had hung a sheepskin there. But no sheepskin was ever so
white.

Then she came up near the pinnacle, and saw. Standing upright against
it was a girl, not much older than herself. Her long dark hair blew
back over the rock; her white body was half hidden in a trembling veil
of white light, which shimmered and played all about her, waving with
every breath of the wind. Her face was beautiful and cold, like a
frosty moonrise; her eyes shone like the drip of phosphorescent water
under the stars.

"You have come at last," said the girl. "Every day for many days I
have watched for you."

"Who are you, you beautiful girl?" asked Fiona.

"I am an Oread," said the girl. "I am the spirit of Heleval."

"I have heard," said Fiona, "that long ago people used to believe that
everything had a spirit of its own, mountains and rivers and trees. Is
it true then?"

"It _was_ true," said the girl. "The world was full of my sisters,
once. There were the Naiads in the streams, and the Hamadryads in the
woods, and we, the Oreads, in the mountains. Men were wiser and
simpler in those days. But now my sisters are nearly all gone. When a
tree has become so many cubic feet of timber, how can it shelter a
Dryad? When a stream is merely so many units of waterpower, how can a
Naiad dwell there? Only the barren mountains, if they contain neither
gold nor iron, have been left unappraised and unexploited; and a few
Oreads still linger here and there. Once in a while a man fancies that
he sees one of us; then he must climb and climb till the day he dies,
hoping to see her indeed; down in your world people call him mountain
mad."

"How is it then that I have seen you?" asked Fiona.

The Oread touched her bracelet.

"Partly because of this," she said. "But chiefly because you are a
child, and can still see. What is it you have come to ask me?"

"How to find the Urchin," said Fiona.

"You know of course where he is?" the girl asked; and Fiona said,
"Yes, he is in Fairyland; but I do not know the way to go."

"That is easily told," said the Oread. "The King of the Woodcock will
let you in, and any of his people can tell you where to find him. But
do you know the danger? If you do arrive, which is very doubtful, the
fairies will make you wish a wish; and if your wish be one that does
not find favor with them, they will keep you there forever, till you
lose your memory and yourself and become even as one of them."

"I will take the risk," said Fiona, "for I must go and try to bring
him back."

"Why do you want to bring him back?" asked the Oread. "He is much
better where he is. Will he thank you for bringing him back? Not a
bit. You will have the labor and the danger, and he will take it all
for granted. And then he will become a man, and what use is that? He
may be a financier, and cheat somebody; or a politician, and slander
somebody; or a learned man, and hinder wisdom. He is much better in
Fairyland. Why are you going?"

"I can't help it," said Fiona. "You can't leave people in the lurch,
you know."

"Of course you can," said the Oread. "Be sensible and go home; eat,
drink, and be merry."

"O, don't you understand?" said Fiona. "Don't you see that there are
some things you _can't_ do, whatever anybody says? It's not the reason
of the thing; it's only just because I am I, and he is lost. You are
so beautiful; haven't you any heart?"

"Neither heart nor soul," said the Oread. "So I ought to be perfectly
happy. You have a heart and a soul, and you are not. Which of us is
the better off?"

"I wouldn't change, anyhow," said Fiona.

The Oread laughed.

"Of course you wouldn't. It is I who would change if I could. But as I
have no soul, and cannot get one, and do not know what it would mean
to get one, it is no use worrying; it is best to be happy as I am. In
any case, I would not care to be like men and women. I would not mind
having a child's heart, like you. I had a heart once, but it is so
long ago that I have almost forgotten what it was like. How old do you
think I am?"

"You _look_ about seventeen," said Fiona.

"I am exactly as old as Heleval," said the girl. "And that is more
hundreds of thousands of years than you or I could ever count. I am
older than any of the fishes or birds or beasts; far older than men or
fairies. Look at that," and the Oread swept her arm over the glorious
prospect around her; the two great wings of the Isle of Mist stretched
far out into the sea, the Atlantic throbbing and sparkling under the
blue sky, and across the loch the jagged gray range of the Cuchullins,
peak upon peak. "Isn't it all beautiful? We came into being together.
Heleval was a giant in those days, a king among other kings; and there
was no sea there, and the Cuchullin Hills stood right up into the sky,
and twisted and bubbled while the Earth cooled and cracked, and my
sisters of the Fire came out of the cracks and taught us mountain
spirits the fire dance, and we danced it all night on the great peaks
till the stars reeled to watch us. And then the fiery summits cooled
and sank down, and my sisters of the Fire sank with them, and a mighty
river went foaming out down the valley yonder to a distant sea; and
every evening my sisters the Naiads came floating up in a circle with
garlands of green on their hair, and they taught us mountain spirits
the water dance, and we danced it all night on the moonlit water,
while the Ocean crept nearer and nearer to gaze. And then the sea
came up, and the river carved Heleval out as you see it, and shrank
away, and my sisters the Naiads shrank away with it; and the island
was covered with great forests, and my sisters the Hamadryads came out
of the tree-trunks and taught us mountain spirits the tree dance, and
we danced it all night in the forest glades, till one night men saw;
and men felled the forests to capture my sisters of the trees and
enslave them, but they vanished as the trees vanished. And to-day only
the hills are left, and we, the Oreads, a people few and fading away;
and we no longer dance, for we have lost all our sisters, and we no
longer have hearts."

The girl's face had filled with color as she spoke, and her eyes had
become soft, and her voice sounded like the music of waters far away.
Fiona looked at her in wonder.

"Indeed, indeed, you have your heart still," she said. "And you are
far more beautiful even than I thought you were. Come home with me,
and I will love you as you loved your sisters."

"It is not possible," said the Oread. "It is not free to me to leave
Heleval. I _am_ Heleval. And I shall be here till one day men find
iron or copper in my mountain, and come up with great engines to carve
it and tear its flanks and carry it away; and then I shall go too, as
my sisters have gone."

"Will you die?" asked Fiona.

"I do not know what death means," said the girl. "I shall just go
back, like a drop of water when it falls into the sea. But do you know
what you have done to-day? For a few moments, because you are brave
and loyal, you have given me back my heart, which was lost thousands
of years ago. It will all fade away again; but before it fades, will
you kiss me?"

So Fiona took her in her arms and kissed her, and then turned and went
down the hill. Once she faced round, and saw the Oread standing,
frosty and white, against the pinnacle of rock, holding out her arms;
and she started to go back to her. And even as she moved the whiteness
vanished, and there was nothing there but the rocky pinnacle, shining
in the slanting sunlight. Rather sadly she went home.



CHAPTER VI

THE KING OF THE WOODCOCK


That night Fiona told her father that she believed she had found the
way to go. They also discussed the question of catching a woodcock;
with the result that Fiona was up at dawn and off to the kennels
behind the big house, where the Urchin's father kept his dogs. She
understood that she must take advantage both of the night frost and
the habits of the keeper, who was apt to lie in bed awhile when no one
was about.

The two setters stood on their hind legs to greet her, and pawed at
the bars, whining and dancing with joy. Artemis was white and brown
and Apollo was white and black. Fiona threw open the door, and they
were out in a moment, tumbling over each other as they made wild
rings round the grass, and dashing back in between to lick her hand.
She had to sit down and wait till the first exuberance was over, and
they came and lay down at her feet with their tongues out.

"It is good to be out so early," said Apollo.

"It's so slow in the kennel," said Artemis. "And we can't even talk to
each other, because Apollo was broken in English and doesn't know any
Gaelic, and I was broken by another man in Gaelic and don't know any
English."

"You'll interpret, won't you?" said Apollo. "Of course we've the
international code, but it doesn't take one much further than the
passwords."

So for the rest of the morning Fiona had not only to interpret but to
make every remark twice over, once in each language. But it will do if
the reader takes this for granted.

"What are we going to do?" asked Apollo.

So Fiona explained to them that she wanted to catch a woodcock and ask
him a question, and she hoped they would help her.

"Of course we will," said Artemis. "We know all about woodcock. When
we go out with himself, we find them for him and stand still, and then
he makes a noise and they fall down dead."

"Sometimes," said Apollo.

"Generally," corrected Artemis, loyally. "Will you make them fall down
dead?"

Fiona explained that she only wanted to catch one and talk to it.

"We never saw that done," said Apollo. "But we will find one, and then
you can catch it."

"It's very early for woodcock," said Artemis. "There won't be any in
the heather on the second of October. But there may be an early pair
in the ferns."

"The first ones always pitch in the ferns on Glenollisdal," said
Apollo.

So to Glenollisdal they went, down the shore road and across the
little bridge and then by the shepherd's track along the top of the
black cliffs, over grass and stones all rough and white with the
frost. The cold morning air was like new wine, and Fiona had to shade
her eyes from the low sun. Then the track left the cliffs and began to
climb up a sunless valley, across little burns beautiful with fading
ferns, till between two great moorland crags it reached the pass, more
a watercourse now than a track; and then came the cairn at the summit
of the pass, with its glorious view of sea and mountain, and down at
one's very feet the deep narrow valley that was Glenollisdal, seamed
from crest to foot by its deep burn, which ran half its length through
faded brown heather and then out to sea through a huge bed of dying
bracken, the whole bathed in the bright morning sun.

"We always come here the first day," said Apollo. "Oh, we are going to
have fun."

The three followed the track down to where it passed the top of the
fern bed. There was a good deal of grass there, dotted with sheep, and
in one place, looking well out to sea, a curious little hard circle
in the grass, where no sheep ever came.

"That is the fairy ring," said Artemis. "Where they dance, you know."

"They dance on All Hallows E'en," said Apollo. "But no one ever sees
them."

"Because everyone's afraid to go and look," said Artemis.

"Please, may we start?" said Apollo.

"All you have to do is to wait till we point," said Artemis, "and then
come to us."

And the two dogs dashed off into the great fern bed, crossing each
other backwards and forwards like a pair of scissors as they quartered
it.

They were not long about it. Apollo's gallop became a sort of run, a
yard or two of stealthy crawl, and he stopped dead, tail stiff and
throat distended, like a dog of marble, and looked round for Fiona.
Artemis was just crossing him; she whipped round in her stride as if
shot and became a second marble image where she stood.

Fiona walked down to Apollo. But the ferns rustled a good deal as she
made her way through, and as she reached the dog's side the cock rose,
five yards away, with a lazy careless flap as if it felt only the
bother of being disturbed. For a moment she had a vivid impression of
the white patches at the end of its fan of tail feathers, and then it
gradually gathered speed and swept away over the side of the valley;
for an instant it showed black as it crossed the sky line, and then it
was gone.

Apollo turned to Fiona with unhappy eyes and licked her hand. But
Artemis never moved a muscle.

"Come to me," she said in a low whisper.

Very quietly Fiona reached her side.

"The other bird is here," whispered Artemis, "just under my nose.
Stoop down."

Fiona bent down between the stalks of the bracken. The woodcock was
sitting with its back to her, a little brown bunch of feathers. Very
gently she put her hand out, and even as she did so she became aware
of a wise black eye looking at her, though the bird faced the other
way. Her hand closed on the empty air, and the woodcock, with a
wonderful spring, was well on its way to seek its mate.

"I believe I could have put a foot on it," said Artemis regretfully.
"But of course we are not allowed to."

"I don't know how I came to be so foolish," said Fiona. "I ought to
have spoken to it instead of trying to catch it. But I forgot."

"Better luck next time," said Apollo; "we must try again."

But though the dogs worked the whole of the ferns carefully, there was
no other bird there.

They came back and lay down beside Fiona, tongues out and panting.

"It's no use trying the heather yet, I know," said Artemis. "Birds are
never in it at this time of year."

"There are some more ferns two miles on," said Apollo doubtfully. "I
saw a bird there once, three years ago."

"I wish I knew what to do," said Fiona.

"We can leave it for a day or two and come back," said Artemis. "Those
two birds will be back again to look for each other."

"But they won't be so confiding again," added Apollo.

They were all so preoccupied that they never noticed the shepherd till
he was quite close to them. He was striding down the track, a big,
raw-boned man with red hair; a plaid was thrown loosely across his
shoulder; at his heels followed a jet black collie.

The dogs saw him first. It would seem that they did not like him.
Every hair on their necks bristled; they shrank close to Fiona, making
little moaning noises in their throats, and flattening themselves as
if they were trying to burrow into the ground. Their eyes were full of
terror.

"Why, Artemis, Apollo, what's the matter?" said Fiona. Then she looked
up and saw the shepherd. "Why, it's only the new shepherd and his
collie. There's nothing to be afraid of."

"Collie!" said Apollo. "That thing's not a collie. Can't you see?"

"Shepherd!" echoed Artemis. "That thing's not a shepherd. Oh, can't
you see?"

The shepherd came up to Fiona, and said that Miss Fiona was out early
and was there anything he could be doing for her. He spoke in the soft
correct English of the Gael.

"I came out to catch a woodcock to talk to it," said Fiona, "and we
can't catch one."

It occurred to her, even as she spoke, that the statement sounded a
little out of the ordinary. But the rough shepherd never let the least
sign of this show on his face. He answered in the most matter-of-fact
way, with the gentle courtesy of the west coast, that there would not
be many woodcock in yet, and would he try to catch one for Miss Fiona?

"Oh, do you think you could?" said Fiona eagerly. "I should be so
grateful."

Then the shepherd saw the trouble of the dogs. He said something to
them in a language that was neither English nor Gaelic, and waved his
own dog to go. The collie went straight off up the moor, and sat down
on the top of the nearest rock ledge, an odd little blot of black on
the brown and yellow moorland. Apollo and Artemis got up and shook
themselves violently.

"It was the international password," said Apollo. "Goodness knows
where he got it from. But we have to recognize it."

"I'm not happy," said Artemis. "I was well brought up. I never
associated with this sort of thing before."

Fiona, who knew that a new shepherd had been coming, could make
nothing of their trouble, and did her best to smooth them down. The
shepherd led the way up the hill, and on to a little rough plateau
broken with rocks and bits of heather, lying under the main rise of
the hill where it rounds away toward the Glenollisdal burn. "I am
thinking that there should be a woodcock about here," he said.

"This is one of the earliest places in all the heather," whispered
Artemis to Fiona. "He must know this moor very well."

"It's too early yet, all the same, even for here," said Apollo.

It looked as if Apollo were right. For when at the shepherd's request
Fiona threw the dogs off, they quartered the whole plateau and found
nothing.

But the shepherd stuck to his guns.

"I am thinking that there should be a bird here," he said. "Will Miss
Fiona give me leave to try my own dog?"

Fiona nodded and called the setters to heel; the shepherd waved his
hand, and the black collie came racing to him. Some collies will work
a ground like a spaniel, and some will even do a little pointing, but
the black collie troubled himself neither with one nor the other. When
the shepherd spoke to him, he just cantered straight forward to a
small patch of heather on the sunless side of a rock, where the frost
still lingered, and there sat down quite unconcerned, as though the
matter in hand were altogether beneath the scope of his talents.

"I think he has a bird," said the shepherd.

"I tried that place," said Apollo. "There's nothing there."

But the shepherd had gone up to his dog and was peering carefully into
the heather. Then he beckoned Fiona.

"Does Miss Fiona see the bird?" he asked, pointing.

Fiona looked long before she saw. The woodcock had squeezed himself
right into the roots of a frost-covered clump of heather, and even
when the heather was parted nothing showed but his little orange tail,
with its white and black points.

"Shall I catch him for Miss Fiona?" asked the shepherd; and Fiona
said, "Oh yes, please, if you will."

The shepherd knelt down and brought his two great hands slowly to
either side of the tuft of heather; then he closed them with a snap,
and drew out the largest woodcock Fiona had ever seen. It struggled
and thrashed at his wrists with its powerful wings.

"Will Miss Fiona take the bird now?" he said. "Just behind the wings,
with her thumbs on its back."

So Fiona took her bird, and as she did so its back-seeing eye caught
the glint of her copper bangle. It stopped thrashing with its wings
and lay quite still in her hands.

"Oh, I say," he said, "why didn't you say before, instead of employing
these people and frightening an honest bird out of his senses?"

"My dogs couldn't find you," said Fiona. "And I think it was so good
of the shepherd to find you for me."

"Shepherd!" said the woodcock. "That wasn't a shepherd. And it wasn't
a collie either."

Fiona suddenly recollected that she had not yet thanked the shepherd,
and turned to do so. But the shepherd and collie were gone. They must
have walked very quickly to have turned the corner of the hill
already.

"Where did he go?" she asked Artemis. Artemis shivered.

"To his own place, I hope," said Artemis severely. "Well brought up
dogs should not be asked to associate with things like that."

"But it was only the new shepherd," said Fiona.

"There's the new shepherd," said Artemis, nodding toward a distant
slope, where a figure with a brown collie could be seen gathering
sheep.

"What were they, then?" asked Fiona.

"Two of the Little People, of course," said Apollo. "Oh dear, oh dear,
I'm afraid you'll have trouble."

"One generally dies," said Artemis, with cheerful consolation.

"But they were very nice to me indeed," said Fiona.

"Of course they were," said the woodcock. "You're privileged, you
know. _We_ all know it. And don't you mind the dogs, my dear. They
are good creatures, but they and their forbears have lived so long
with humans that they have forgotten most of the things we know. They
are nearly as blind as humans now, saving your presence, my dear. And
now what is it you want with me?"

"I want to find the King of the Woodcock," said Fiona.

"Bless your heart," said the bird, "and who do you suppose We are? You
never saw a woodcock Our size before, did you?" And indeed Fiona never
had; for he was as big as a young grouse.

"Eighteen and a half ounces, if I'm a pennyweight," said the woodcock.
"I am the heaviest king that we have ever had. Will you please put me
down if you want to talk to me? It is hardly consonant with my royal
dignity to be held. I shan't fly away; _noblesse oblige_, you know."

So Fiona put him down, and he arranged himself like a bunch of
feathers on the ground, his head well back between his shoulders and
his beady black eyes looking all round him at once.

"Why didn't Apollo find you?" asked Fiona.

"No scent," said the woodcock, proudly. "I am not like a common bird.
No dog can find a king woodcock; and no dog ever has. We can be beaten
out of a wood, of course; my great-great-grandfather was shot like
that when the family lived in Norfolk, many years ago. So we came up
here to the open heather, and have been quite safe ever since. And now
what do you want, my dear?"

"I was told you could let me into Fairyland," said Fiona.

"I can let you in by the back door," the bird said. "But are you
really going to Fairyland? You'll need some courage, you know, if you
are going the back way."

"Is there another way?" asked Fiona.

"There's the front door, of course," said the bird. "But no one can go
that way without an invitation. Have you an invitation?"

"No," said Fiona.

"A pity," said the woodcock. "There is no danger that way. But without
an invitation you could not even find the door. As it is, you'll have
to go in by the back way and take your risks."

"I have to go, whatever they are," said Fiona.

"_Noblesse oblige_," said the woodcock. "Quite so, quite so. Have you
been told about the wish?"

"Yes," said Fiona. "I know about that."

"The other thing," continued the bird, "is that you must stick to the
main path. Remember that. You must not turn out of it for any reason
of any kind. You'll see lots of side paths, and you'll see other
things too; but if you once leave the main path by so much as one step
you'll never get home again. There are no short cuts to Fairyland."

"Thank you so much," said Fiona. "But how shall I know the main path?"

With his long bill the woodcock tweaked the point feather out of one
of his wings and gave it to her.

"This will take you through," he said. "It will point the right way
for you; that's why it is called the point feather. Just follow it. If
you are frightened and want to leave your search and come home, tap on
the ground with it and you will be back in Glenollisdal. But somehow I
don't think you will. And whatever you do, don't lose it. When you
reach the fairy grove, show it to the guardian, and he will let you
in; and mind you don't go in unless he shows you its fellow. Oh, I'm
all right, thank you; I'll have grown others long before they are
needed. There is no great rush to Fairyland on the part of people who
haven't _got_ to go, my dear."

"It all sounds so much more difficult than I thought," said poor
Fiona.

"Nothing worth while is ever easy," said the woodcock. "And now I'll
show you where to start. By the bye, you can't take the dogs with
you."

"This dog wouldn't go," said Artemis, shivering. "That black collie's
there somewhere."

"Don't bother about us," said Apollo. "We'll be home long before the
keeper is out of bed."

So Fiona took a warm farewell of the two dogs, who lamented her sad
fate and wished her luck all in one breath, and then set off homeward
with their long swinging gallop.

"And now, if you want to be in time for the great gathering, which you
humans call Hallow E'en, you'll have to hurry," said the woodcock.

"But it's nearly a month to Hallow E'en," said Fiona.

"You'll want every minute of it," said the bird. "Come on."

And they started off for the fairy ring, the woodcock pattering along
on his little feet at a pace which would have surprised anyone who had
never seen a woodcock do it.

"How come you to be doorkeeper?" asked Fiona, as they went.

"Hereditary," said the bird. "We used to go to all the lost lands, you
know, like Lyonesse and Lemuria and Bresil and Atlantis. We still
cross Ireland once a year and pass on into the Atlantic to salute the
site of Plato's island, before we settle in Britain. And Fairyland is
only another of the lost lands. Here we are."

They had come to the fairy ring.

"There's nothing more I can do now," said the woodcock. "A straight
step and a stout heart, my dear."

Fiona took the feather in her hand and stood in the fairy ring.



CHAPTER VII

FIONA IN THE FAIRY-WORLD


It was very, very dark. Fiona could not see her hand if she held it
close before her eyes. It was just blackness. Only one thing broke it;
far away--many miles it might be--was a tiny speck of white, like the
point of a pin. All round her in the dark were little soft sounds;
they brushed against her feet, and passed before her face; little soft
sounds, apparently without bodies. She held the tiny point-feather
firmly in the fingers of her left hand, and touched it from time to
time with her right, as she felt her way, one foot before the
other--she could not walk--towards the point of light. And with her
and about her went the small soft sounds; one would have said that
they whispered and chuckled in the darkness.

How far and how long she went she could never guess; there was nothing
by which to measure time or distance, and evidently she was not going
to feel hunger or fatigue.

At last she became conscious of a change. The white speck of light was
growing brighter and larger; and the small soft sounds were becoming
tangible. One brushed past her face, and she felt it; she put out a
hand, and there was a scuffing and chuckling, as if they were playing
blind man's buff with her. Then the light began to take shape; it was
a circular pool lying on the floor and wall of the avenue of blackness
down which she was passing; and it came from something on the other
side. And the little soft sounds crowded round her; they laughed, they
whispered, they clutched at her dress; they were trying to guide her
in a certain direction. She tried to shake them off, and found that,
though they could touch her, she could not touch them. And then she
came into the pool of light.

The light came down a sort of short passage between rocks, with a
well-trodden floor; and at the end of it, not twenty yards from where
she stood, she could see the fairy grotto. One grand white carbuncle,
as big as an arc lamp, hung from the roof, filling the grotto with
dazzling white light; and the radiance of the carbuncle was flung back
in a million points of new splendor from the walls of the grotto,
shifting and shimmering like the rainbow across a waterfall, ruby and
orange, yellow and emerald, sapphire and violet, changing as each new
facet came into play; for the walls of the grotto were set thick with
cut jewels of every hue and color. A glorious sight it looked; and
Fiona suddenly became aware that the soft things that clutched at her
dress and the soft things that whispered in her ear, were all trying
to draw her toward the beautiful grotto. But she felt her feather, and
it pointed straight on into the dark. So she moved forward; and with
the first step she saw the trap. The floor of the beautiful grotto
yawned wide, showing the horrible abyss beneath it; and the darkness
was full of soft flutterings, and the chuckling of mocking laughter.
But they touched her no more at the time; and suddenly the darkness
fell away on each side like a wall, and she stepped out into daylight.

She was in the desert. The yellow burning sand stretched all round
her, a mass of glittering particles that made the eyes sore; wave
after wave, it went billowing away to the red burning hills that faced
and flung back the burning sun. Mile after mile she stumbled along in
that aching heat; and then, as she topped a great hillock of sand, she
suddenly saw the fairy city. Very beautiful it looked, rose-pink on a
wooded island in a fair lake of water, whose blue mirror gave back
every trembling cupola and minaret; and toward it, down a broad track
marked by tamarisk bushes, went a goodly company of merchants, with
tinkling bells on their camels' necks and golden ornaments on their
camels' heads, the company of a chief who rode ahead on a white Arab
steed with his long jezail laid across his saddle-bow. Here could no
doubt be; and Fiona all but stepped on to the broad path in the track
of the caravan. But even as she turned she caught sight of the feather
and checked herself just in time; and the beautiful city of mirage
melted away, and there was no caravan there, but only sand marked by
the bones of men, and in place of the tamarisk bushes were gray
vultures feasting in a row. She followed the feather straight on
across the burning desert; and on a sudden she walked out of the sand
into shade.

She was out in the forest. Huge trees rose like the pillars of a
cathedral nave, branching far above her head and shutting out the
daylight; and up their trunks ran starred creepers of every hue,
fighting their way up to the sun. Down from the branches hung orchids
of all fantastic shapes, in long still streamers, and great moon moths
fluttered round them, taking their joy in the dim light. And the
farther she went the thicker grew the forest, and the more oppressive
the airless heat. Trailing plants ran across her feet and tried to
trip her up; the great trunks closed together till there was barely
room to force a way between; the thorns of the creepers tore at her
flesh, and instead of the beautiful orchids there came on the trees
huge funguses red as blood. And the small soft voices began again;
they had caught her up; the forest was full of the same little sounds
which she had heard before, whispering and chuckling and fingering her
dress. And then, just as it seemed impossible to fight a way farther
through the dense jungle, she came to the open glade. Full of grass
and flowers and sunshine it was, and across it ran a gurgling brook,
crossed by a little plank bridge; a sweet breeze moved the grass, and
beyond the brook two little spotted deer were feeding; far in the
distance were tiny peaks of snow. The soft fingers were all tugging at
Fiona's dress, impelling her down the glade; but she had had ample
warning of those soft fingers, and she saw that the feather pointed
straight on through the tangled forest. And even as she moved she saw
that the little bridge was the back of a great water-python; and the
fingers loosed their hold of her dress, and the air was full of soft
whisperings and laughter. And she walked straight on into the tangled
thicket before her; and the forest parted to right and left, and she
walked out.

She was in a fair country of green grass and temperate airs, where the
path lay true and straight before her through vineyards and groves of
oranges. Here and there a cherry tree swung its crown of white blossom
above her head, or a cypress stood up tall and straight as a sentinel
on duty. Purple flags bloomed under the rocks, and on a clump of brown
orchises sat two little jewelled butterflies, burnished green as old
copper; up the path of the sunlight came a swallowtail with its
stately glancing flight. Everything spoke to her here of fair peace
and security; and when she heard the air still rustling with little
soft sounds and chuckles, and knew that they had followed her, she
began to wonder how it was that, now that she knew their ways, they
should think it worth while. And they were becoming most active. The
soft sounds brushed all round her; the soft fingers grasped her arms;
tiny weightless bodies behind her seemed to be impelling her forward.

And then before her she saw the inevitable two paths: the broad flat
path that passed through a fair orchard of lemon trees, where the
sunlight threw chequers on to the grass beneath, starred with scarlet
and purple anemones; and the narrow stony track, terribly steep, which
toiled away up the bare hillside in heat radiated from the rocks.
Never had the soft sounds been so insistent; a myriad gentle hands
were trying to steer her, even to push her by force, toward the lemon
trees. She saw the folly of them so very clearly; and her foot was
actually raised to take the first step up the hill path, when she felt
the feather turn of itself in her hand, and she became ice from head
to foot as she realized that she had all but destroyed herself by
despising her opponents. They had striven this time to force her into
the _true_ path, believing that she would certainly take the opposite
one.

She saw now the end of the fatal hill path, the sudden crumbling
precipice which flung men on to pointed rocks far below; and the air
behind her became full of woe, voiceless wailings and silent howls of
rage, and she saw what she had fought against; a troop of small
formless black things, like immature bats, with pale fingers, that
fled moaning down the path of the sunlight. She knew now that they
would not vex her again.

She passed on through the lemon orchard, and out on to a bare
hillside, rough with stones and dotted here and there with great oak
trees; plants of asphodel were thrusting their blossoms up among the
coarse tufts of grass, and far below, in all its laughing splendor,
lay the sea. And as she turned the shoulder of the hill she saw the
temple, a fair Doric temple of gray marble, standing in lonely beauty
among the scattered oak trees. Its metopes were carved with the
figures of gods and heroes of an older day, and round it ran a frieze
of warriors who fought with Amazon women. The singing was just over,
it seemed; and the double choir of white-robed girls, who had been
giving strophe and antistrophe of some festival ode, had broken into
groups, these playing at ball, those reclining in the shade or
strolling about with their arms round each other's waists. In her
chair in the cool portico sat the fair-faced matronly priestess, still
crowned with red roses, and before her two little boys poured wine
into a crystal goblet. And as she saw Fiona she rose from her chair
and greeted her by name, calling her happy that she had now come
safely through the path of danger and that her troubles were ended.

"Come here to us," she said, "and rest, for it is but a little way now
that you must go, and there is ample time; slake your thirst at this
crystal goblet, and lie awhile in the shade, while these maidens crown
you with flowers."

But Fiona had learnt her lesson, and she looked at her feather; and
the feather pointed straight along the hillside. So she passed on
without a look or a word; and as she passed came a noise as of the
earth opening; and the pillars of the temple bowed themselves, and the
middle of the building collapsed stone by stone, till only the outer
columns remained among a mass of fallen blocks, and triglyph and
metope and sculptured frieze lay in fragments about them. And among
the ruins a red fox with two cubs sat and snarled, as she watched a
company of toads crawling in the dust; and of that fair scene all that
had not changed was the pallid asphodel, the asphodel whose home is in
those other meadows where walk the pallid dead.

And as Fiona passed on, the hillside itself dissolved in mist, and
there before her lay the fairy grove. And the guardian of the grove,
with white beard sweeping the ground, and old trembling hands, came
out to meet her. And she showed him her feather, and from his belt he
drew out and held up its fellow; and she knew that the path of danger
was over.

"No one has come through by the way you have come for more years than
my old memory can follow," he said. "They always fail at the lemon
orchard. How did you escape?"

And Fiona told him how the feather had turned in her hand of itself.

The old man bowed almost to the ground.

"That was the direct grace of the King," he said. "You must be a
person of the greatest consequence."

And when Fiona said, "I am just an ordinary girl," he again bowed low
and said: "Young lady, I take leave to doubt it."

Then he gave Fiona her directions for finding the King, and warned her
that she must not loiter in the fairy grove, for the fairies were
already gathering for All Hallows E'en.

So Fiona walked swiftly through the grove, not seeing one half of its
beauties, though she would have loved to have lingered among the
trees. For in the grove grew every tree and plant famous in legend or
in history, of which not the tenth part can be told here. There was
the Norse ash, whose roots bind together the framework of the earth;
there the Irish hazel, of whose nuts could a man but taste he would
know all knowledge and all wisdom; there the African pomegranate, but
for whose sweetness the Corn-spirit would have disdained to stay
beneath the earth, and the race of men would have perished. There
stood Deborah's terebinth and Diotima's plane, and the Bô-tree beneath
whose branches Gautama Buddha sought and found the path of
Enlightenment. There grew the paper-reeds of Egypt, the repository
through many centuries of a whole world's learning, the paper-reeds
that grow no longer in their old home, even as the prophet Isaiah
foretold; and there the clove, for whose perfumed pistils great
nations had warred together and brave men died under torture. There
stood the English trees, the oak and the white acacia, which had built
the three-deckers for the greatest sea captain the world has seen.
There was that great traveller, the mulberry, which had left its home
on the Yangtse to follow the old Silk Route across Asia; which had
crossed the stony Gobi, where wild camels run and the Djinn light
their lamps at night to decoy travellers; which had seen the Khotan
girls wading knee-deep in the Khotan River, searching for the previous
white jade which should make gods for China, as erstwhile for Nineveh
and Troy; which had skirted the wandering lake of Lop-nor, and had
tarried awhile in old dead cities, now buried under the sands of the
dreaded Taklamakan; which had seen the turquoise mines of Khorassan,
and voyaged on the broad Oxus stream, till from Iran its way lay clear
to the west. There grew the cedars of the Atlas, which had aided their
great mountain to support the sky, and had sailed south with Hanno to
the Guinea Gulf, to bring home those gorilla hides which lay on the
altar of Melcarth at Carthage; and there the most famous of all the
trees of the forest, the proud cedars of Lebanon, which had once
exulted with their voices over the fall of the king of Assyria, which
had built for Solomon his temple and his house for the daughter of
Pharaoh, and which had given to the princes of Tyre the ships in
which, greatly daring, they had ranged the three seas, bringing home
the gold of India and the silver of Spain and the tin of Cornwall, the
wealth of the east and the west, myrrh and frankincense and purple
dye, ivory and apes and peacocks. And last of all was the twisted gray
olive, beloved of gray-eyed Pallas Athene, the symbol of all that
raises man above the savage, the tree in whose train, as it moved out
from its home in Asia, had grown up all the civilizations that ringed
the Mediterranean.

So Fiona passed through the grove and came out on a broad place of
grass, and right before her stood the fairy ring. But not such a one
as the ring on Glenollisdal which she knew. This ring was of vast
size, and round it grew in a circle huge red toadstools splotched with
white, the red toadstools from which the witches of Lapland had used
to brew philtres of love and death. But vast as it was, it could not
hold all the creatures that swarmed round it. It was a gathering such
as Fiona had never dreamt of. On the outskirts stood an innumerable
host of little strange beings, of every sort and shape, elves and
brownies, gnomes and pixies, trolls and kobolds, goblins and
leprechauns; and the babel of them as they whispered together was like
the noise of a flock of fieldfares. And within them and around the
ring itself stood the fairies.

All the lost peoples and nations and languages, it seemed, were there
in miniature; everyone that Fiona had ever heard her father speak of,
and many another of which even he knew nothing. There were fairies of
the Old Stone peoples, brave-eyed, clad in pelts of the saber-tooth,
bearing the blade-bones of bisons on which were carved pictures of the
mammoth and the reindeer. Fairies from Egypt, clad in fine white linen
with girdles of topaz and aquamarine, with fillets round their brows
from which the golden uræus lifted its snake's head, bearing blossoms
of the blue lotus. Fairies from Babylon, glowing in coats of scarlet
or of many colors, their eyes deep with immemorial learning, bearing
clay tablets on which were signs like the footprints of birds. Fairies
from Crete, light of foot in the dance, in flounced skirts adorned
with golden butterflies, crowned with yellow crocuses and bearing
vases on which were painted the creatures of the sea, nautilus and
flying fish and polyp. Fairies of the Iberians, black-haired and
black-eyed, clad in black cloaks, small and shy and dusty, bearing
ingots of tin. Fairies from Cappadocia, in peaked shoes, and pelisses
of lion's skin trimmed with the fur of hares, moving to the clash of
cymbals, bearing grapes and ears of corn. Fairies from Mexico, with
heavy cheek bones, resplendent in mantles woven of the plumage of the
quetzal bird, carrying bricks of gold. Fairies from Ethiopia, black as
the black diamond, clad in leopard skins and plumed with the feathers
of ostriches, carrying tusks of ivory. Fairies from the land of Sheba,
well skilled in riddles, in cloaks of camel's hair buckled with clasps
of onyx, bearing caskets of agate filled with spices. Buddhist fairies
of the Naga race, with the sevenfold cobra's hood springing from their
shoulders and shadowing them, languorous and heavy-eyed, carrying
crimson water lilies. Fairies from Cambodia, in stiff dresses of cloth
of gold, with gilded faces and scarlet eyebrows, bearing pagoda bells
which tinkled. Fairies of the Golden Horde, bandy-legged, with pug
noses and slits of eyes, clad in dyed sheepskins and carrying the
tails of horses. Fairies of the Picts, tattooed to the eyelids, their
plaids dyed with crotal and the root of the yellow iris, wearing
badges of mountain fern or bog-myrtle and bearing jars of heather ale.
Fairies of Britain, in deerskin cloaks fastened with brooches of
enamel, with golden torques circling their throats, bearing sprays of
mistletoe. Fairies of the Tuatha-dé, with all the youth of the world
in their eyes, clad in robes of saffron, crowned with rowans and
bearing harps. Fairies from Greece, erect and lissom, beautiful as a
sculptor's dream, crowned with wild olive and bearing each the roll of
a book. Fairies of old England, in Lincoln green, with feathers of the
gray goose in their caps, bearing bows of yew and branches of the may.
Fairies from Baghdad, radiant as visions of the night-time, their
turbans and their crooked scimitars jewelled with rubies of Badakshan,
bearing magic lamps. Fairies from Quinsay, dainty as porcelain, their
silken robes embroidered with blossoms of the almond and the peach
tree, bearing jars of coral lac wrought in the likeness of dragons,
and on their heads the poppy flowers that bring sleep.

And in the middle of the ring stood a throne carved out of a single
beryl, green as the sea; and on the throne sat the King of the
Fairies, with eyes bright as the dawn and deep as the sea caves, in a
cloak of Tyrian purple with clasps of amethyst. His crown and sceptre
were of white gold, white gold which has long since perished out of
the upper world, and in the end of his sceptre was set a double
pentacle of clear crystal brought from the Island of Desire. And in
the beryl throne, if he looked at it through the crystal, were shown
to him the reflections of all things that he might wish to see. If he
looked directly, he saw all that had happened in the world in the
past; and if he reversed the crystal, he saw all that should happen in
the future; but if he held the pentacle edgewise, then he saw the
present, which no man ever sees, and was the greatest magic of all.
Round the throne stood his guards, black as Moors, in jackets and
trousers of emerald green clasped with orange zircons; half of them
bore trumpets of silver, and half of them carried spears with heads of
green obsidian as sharp as steel. And on either side of the throne, on
a stool, sat a strange creature, a little wizened elf with a large
book on his knee. One wore a white cap, and he bore an inkhorn and a
bundle of long quills; the other wore a black cap, and he bore a
penknife.

Fiona edged herself as far forward as she could into the ring of
strange beings, and found herself next an old Leprechaun with a face
like a wrinkled apple, who seemed quite inclined to be friendly.

"A human!" he said. "We do not see as many as we used to. But they say
there are two to be tried to-night. As you see, we have attempted
something out of the ordinary in the way of a welcome." And he waved
his arm proudly round the enormous assembly. "Had far to come?" he
asked.

Fiona told him how long it had taken her.

"That's nothing," he said. "There are people here to-night who, as
soon as the dance is over, will start travelling as fast as they can,
and will only just arrive in time for next year's meeting. Good for
the shoemaking trade!"

"Where do they try the prisoners?" she asked him.

"Here, in the ring," said the Leprechaun. "The King tries them.
There's the Public Prosecutor," and he pointed to a fairy of pompous
aspect, with a hooked nose and a Roman toga, and a roll under his arm.
"He's a terrible fellow. And there's the King's Remembrancer, those
two with the books."

"Why are there two?" asked Fiona.

"One to remember and one to forget, of course, stupid," said the
Leprechaun. "Whereever were you educated? Do you think kings want to
remember _everything_?"

"It must be very easy forgetting," said Fiona.

"Hardest job in Fairyland," said the Leprechaun. "I suppose you know
lots of people with perfect memories; but you never knew one with a
perfect forgetfulness, eh? Whitecap there only has to write his book
up; but poor Blackcap--he's the one that forgets--his book is written
up to start with, and he has to get the pages clean again with his
penknife. He never gets them _quite_ clean. They say he has nightmare
every night over the things he can't forget altogether."

The King had been talking to one of the officers of his guard. He now
rose and held out his sceptre, and there was a great silence round the
Fairy ring.

"Before we dance to-night," he said, "we have, as you know, to try two
prisoners." He turned to the officer of the guard, and said, "Let them
be produced."

The officer at once produced the Urchin from nowhere in particular, as
a conjurer produces half-crowns. The boy looked rather large among the
Little People, but otherwise he was much as Fiona had last seen him;
his shirt and knickerbockers were covered with earthstains and he
still had the same length of useless rope coiled round his waist.

But Jeconiah? Was this the prosperous financier, this wretched apology
for a living being which the officer held out on the palm of his hand?
Not two inches high, its white waistcoat hanging in loose flaps,
speechless, and wide-eyed with terror and abject entreaty, it was like
the ghost of a parody; the officer had to set it on one of the great
toadstools, and mark the place with a stick, lest it should be lost.
The King regarded it with interest.

"I understood that the elder prisoner was a very stout man," he said.

"That was so, your Majesty," said the officer. "He was so stout that
we thought it useless to attempt to take him through the doorway as he
was, so we left his body behind and only brought away the essential
part of him. This is all that there really is of him, sire; the rest
was wind. When we began to sift him we were afraid that he had no
real existence at all, and that there would be nothing to bring
before you."

"Well, well," said the King, "there's enough of him to be tried,
anyhow. Are the prisoners provided with counsel?"

The Public Prosecutor was understood to say that they were not yet
represented.

"Counsel had better be assigned them in the usual way," said the King.
"Catch, somebody."

He took a guinea from his pocket and flung it, apparently without
looking, into the crowd. But thick as the crowd was, the guinea passed
straight through the forest of hands held out for it, and fell into a
tiny brown hand behind them. Fiona knew where she had seen that hand
before.

The owner of the hand at once stepped forward into the ring. He seemed
to be the most singular being in Fairyland. Fiona's first impression
was that he was just a large bald head, the color of parchment and
wrinkled all over; and this impression remained, even when she
realized that he did possess a small body, with the usual allowance of
arms and legs. Out of his great head looked a pair of quite
incongruous eyes, bright as beads, and full of happy drollery. Behind
him came a couple of stout goblins, each laden with dusty law books.
They piled the books up in a stack on the ground, and the singular
creature with the head proceeded to climb to the top of the stack,
where he sat down, cracking his fingers and laughing hugely at some
jest of his own, evidently on the best of terms both with himself and
his audience. Then he caught Fiona's eye, and deliberately winked at
her; but somehow it carried no offence, for the creature seemed
absolutely free from malice.

"Privilege honorable profession defend oppressed," he remarked; "duty
clients submit large number points," and he patted the books he sat
on. He had a habit of clipping his words as he spoke which was totally
destructive of the smaller parts of speech, and made his remarks
sound like a series of unedited cablegrams.

"We will take the younger prisoner first," announced the King;
whereupon the Public Prosecutor proceeded to read, all in one breath,
the indictment against the Urchin, to the effect that he did on or
about the 20th day of September then last past in despite of the peace
of the realm and the safety of the lieges with a stone or some other
missile or thing throw at and break the wing of or otherwise hit, cut,
hurt, maim, destroy and do wrong to one of the said lieges, to wit, a
shore lark, and so forth. When he had finished, instead of evidence
being taken, the King merely glanced into the beryl throne.

"True in fact," he said. "Any defence?"

The creature on the bookstack began at once.

"Please Majesty duty client submit series points. First point no
intention."

But Fiona did not wait to hear what it had to say. Forcing her way
into the ring, she said:

"Please, your Majesty, it was my fault. I told him he couldn't."

The King turned to look at her.

"So this is the young lady," he said. "Very good of you to come, you
know. We rarely receive visitors now. We shall try to make you welcome
when the trial is over." He turned again to the bookstack, and said:
"I will hear the defence."

"It was my fault, your Majesty," said Fiona again.

With grave patience the King started to explain to her.

"Your part of it was your fault, of course. But we are not trying you,
for you have come here of your own free will, so we can neither try
nor punish. But his part of it was equally his own fault, and unless
there is a good defence he will have to be punished."

The creature on the bookstack was nodding and signing to Fiona, but
she was too engrossed with a single thought to notice him.

"Then I claim my wish, your Majesty," she said.

"Quite in order," said the King. "The trial will be suspended while
the young lady wishes. Officer!"

And immediately the fairy ring was strewn with a strange collection of
objects, looking rather like the contents of an old curiosity shop
that had gone bankrupt. The officer held them up one by one for Fiona
to see.

"When we heard you were coming," said the King, "we collected a few
little things for your inspection. It is so long since we had any use
for any of them that many of them seem to have developed serious
defects, which we regret; but they are the best we could find at short
notice. This," he pointed to an old ring, "is a common wishing ring.
It used to do all the usual things. The genie attached to it has
unfortunately become very deaf with age; but if you can make him hear,
we believe he is still in fair working order. This," as a frayed
girdle was held up, "is the famous cestus of Aphrodite, which she
lent to Helen of Troy. Its wearer used to become the most beautiful
and unpopular creature in the world. It will still confer beauty,
though hardly suited to the modern style; the unpopularity we
guarantee. This," pointing to a huge book, "contains the truth of that
which in your world passes as knowledge. It would delight your father.
He might publish selected chapters, and watch the critics cut them to
pieces. This," as a battered trumpet was exhibited, "is Fame. Your
praises would be sung all over the world; and the world would say,
'Never mind what she has _achieved_; tell us about her faults.' This,"
and he contemplated an old iron sceptre, "is Power. You would become a
great ruler, and would probably die in exile. And under this," and he
pointed to a sheet of black velvet, thrown loosely over some object,
"under this is the treasure of the Isle of Mist, which I am told that
you have heard of. Do any of these please you? If not, we have
others."

Fiona never thought about it for a moment, of course. She had not done
all that she had done to hesitate now. She did not look at the King's
face, and she took not the least notice of the creature with the head,
who was dancing about in a perfect agony, trying to attract her
attention.

"Please your Majesty," she said in breathless haste, "I came here to
find the Urchin and take him home with me. That is my wish."

She had hardly spoken the words when her instinct told her something
was wrong. A sort of chill seemed to run through the air, and the
color seemed to go out of the fairy world. The creature with the head
stopped dancing about and began to wring its little hands. She looked
up at the King's face, and read there, was it disappointment? was it
regret? She hardly knew.

"A very natural and proper wish," said the King gravely. "We shall of
course accept it as such, and grant it with great pleasure. The
younger prisoner is discharged. Take the next case."

And then Fiona saw. She saw the thing which had once been Jeconiah,
with that look of abject terror and entreaty in its eyes; and she
realized that it would have meant nothing to her to have included
Jeconiah in her wish, and that for Jeconiah it would have meant
everything. And she realized also that, worthless and evil as he had
been in life, selfish, mean, a thief and a liar, he was still a human
being, and had a soul and possibilities of which the fairy world could
know nothing. She felt a wave of humiliation pass over her; and she
resolved that, whatever he was, and whatever happened, she would not
go home without Jeconiah.

The charges against Jeconiah were then read: stealing a treasure, and
being a worthless character.

"Any defence?" said the King.

The creature with the head got to work.

"Please Majesty," he said, "admit second count. Character worthless.
Object pity however not vindictive punishment. Behalf client offer
submit State cure. First count plead not guilty; intention steal
treasure admitted but did not succeed."

Fiona, in her new-found humility, had been listening to what the
creature with the head was saying. And suddenly it dawned on her that,
all through, both he and the King had been trying to help her, so far
as was consistent with their own rules; and that perhaps the creature
with the head, for all his oddity, knew what he was doing. She asked
the Leprechaun who he was.

"You might have asked that with advantage before you interrupted him,"
said the Leprechaun severely. "He is our Chancellor here. He is the
King's most intimate friend, and far the ablest lawyer in Fairyland."

"Defence to first count not admitted," the King was saying. "Your
client cannot plead his own bungling of the theft in mitigation of his
wrongdoing. Only the intention counts here."

The Chancellor looked immensely relieved at the King's words, though
it passed Fiona's wit to see why.

"Apply formal ruling," he said. "Take down," this to Whitecap.

"I hold that nothing counts here but the intention," said the King.

"Majesty pleases," said the Chancellor. "Settles point. Retire defence
this prisoner. Submit excellent point younger client."

"We will pass sentence here first," said the King. "Jeconiah P.
Johnson, your counsel has very properly thrown up his brief. You are
convicted of stealing a treasure, and it is admitted that you are a
worthless character. On the first count, I sentence you to be handed
over to the executioner to be extended until you become a proper size.
If you survive, you will then undergo, as offered by your counsel, the
State cure at the hands of the State hypnotizer." He turned to the
Chancellor. "Any further submission?"

Fiona had gone over to the stack of books, and bent down over the
little creature with the head.

"I have made a most terrible mistake," she said, in a low voice. "I
have spoilt everything. I see that you are kind; can you help us?"

"Should have come me first," said the creature, quite gently. "Tried
attract attention. Never neglect anyone merely because odd and ugly.
May have good heart. Sad mess now; but think see daylight. Any
influence that boy?"

"Oh, yes," said Fiona eagerly.

"Right," said the creature. "Make boy wish. Now follow my argument."
And he turned to the King.

"Please Majesty submit good point. Majesty just ruled nothing counts
here but intention. Younger prisoner no intention hurt shore lark;
therefore on Majesty's ruling same as if did not hurt it. Therefore
never was guilty. Human prisoner adjudged not guilty is just same as
if came here own free will; so held Majesty's father"; and by some
extraordinary trick he got the top book open and flopped down among
the leaves, from which position he read out bits of an ancient
judgment. "Consequently younger prisoner both entitled and bound
wish."

The King consulted Whitecap.

"It seems a sound chain of reasoning," he said. Then he turned to the
Public Prosecutor. "Have you anything to urge against it?"

"Only that, if he wishes wrong, we can't detain him, because of the
young lady's wish," said that official.

"Daniel come judgment," cried the Chancellor triumphantly. "Heads win,
tails can't lose. Younger prisoner wish."

He turned to Fiona and whispered to her, "Mind he wishes right."

Fiona started to go over to the Urchin; instantly the guard crossed
their spears before her.

"No interference allowed with anyone who is going to wish," said the
officer.

Then she tried to call to him, and found that she could not speak. It
was like a nightmare. She looked helplessly at the Chancellor; he
nodded, and spelt on his fingers the word "think."

Then Fiona understood what he had meant by asking her if she had any
influence over the Urchin. She knew that she had a good deal; and bits
of conversations with her father came back into her mind. She had made
one bad blunder, and she had to correct it as best she could; and
without more ado she concentrated her whole mind on taking possession
of the mind of the Urchin. Could it be done at all? And if so could it
be done in time?

The King stretched out his sceptre, and there was silence.

"The younger prisoner is going to wish," said the King. "Officer!"

And immediately there appeared in the middle of the ring six great
boxes, old sea chests made of Spanish chestnut, battered and stained
and clamped with bands of iron; and on each was the picture, half
obliterated by time and salt water, of the Madonna of the Holy Cross.
The officer flung back the lids, and showed each chest full to the
brim of glittering golden doubloons.

"That is the treasure from the Venetian galleon which you were
seeking," said the King. "We removed it long ago into our safe
custody, lest it should tempt men; but it would seem that it tempts
them none the less. Now wish."

The Urchin, his eyes bulging out of his head, stared at the shining
gold. He murmured "gun," but fortunately so low that the King did not
hear him.

Fiona kept her eyes fixed hard on the boy, and bent every effort of
mind and will to the one thought, that he must wish as she wished. If
only he would turn round. She had already lost sight of the fairies;
she now lost sight of the King; she was conscious only of the abject
wretched creature that was Jeconiah, and of the back of the Urchin's
head. He was still staring at the gold, but he had not yet spoken;
that was to the good, and--no, it was not fancy--his ears were turning
pink, as they always did when he was in a difficulty. Then he began to
shuffle his feet uneasily. Fiona felt that every atom of life and
force in her was being concentrated on that one act of will; she did
not think she could go through with it many seconds longer, or she
would collapse. And then the Urchin turned his head toward her; his
face was scarlet, and his eyes were wavering before the fixed gaze of
her own; he _must_ do as she wished. She flung everything into one
supreme effort--the last reserves which no one thinks they possess
till utter necessity teaches them the contrary; and then the Urchin
spoke, in a strange voice and all in one breath:

"I want my uncle to go free."

Fiona's will let go with a snap; she felt so dizzy that she had to
lean against one of the great toadstools or she would have fallen.
Round the assemblage ran a sound like the wind through the tree tops,
the noise of thousands drawing in breath at once; and the Chancellor
started a war dance on his stack of books, and nearly fell off on his
head. The King rose from his throne, but he took no notice of the
Urchin; he turned straight to Fiona and bowed to her.

"My compliments, young lady," he said; "the prettiest piece of
thought-transference it has ever been our privilege to see. Where did
you learn to do it?"

"I never learnt," stammered Fiona. "I made a great mistake, as your
Majesty saw, and something had to be done, and your friend suggested
this way."

"You needn't mind having made a mistake," said the King. "If you don't
make mistakes sometimes you'll never make anything else. And you have
made something else this time with a vengeance. As for you, sirrah
. . ." and he shook his fist at the Chancellor.

The creature snapped all its fingers in reply.

"Majesty pleases," it began triumphantly. "Duty younger client submit
new point arising young lady's action. Client entitled wish. Did not
wish himself; young lady wished. Therefore client still entitled wish.
Propose develop point considerable length with authorities."

The King raised his hand.

"I think I shall have to intervene," he said. "I believe you would
submit points till cockcrow."

"Submit points till next year, if Majesty pleases," said the creature,
gleefully.

"If these proceedings don't end soon," said the King, "there will be
no time to dance; and if we didn't dance no one knows what would
happen to the world above. Even I don't know that. So as we do not
generally have three human beings here at once, and as substantial
justice has been done, I propose now to exercise the royal prerogative
of generosity. Jeconiah P. Johnson, you will, as requested, go free,
so far as we can set you free. We cannot set you free from your own
worthless character. In order, however, to do the best for you that
can be done, before you leave us the State hypnotizer will take you in
hand and instil into you a few decent feelings. He won't hurt you, and
you won't remember. The effect, I fear, will not be permanent, but it
will ease our conscience. And as a sign to the world above that we
have treated you liberally, you will find that you will be unable to
attend to business until you have told your nephew a fairy tale.
Urchin! A doubt exists as to whether you have had your wish or not.
You shall have the benefit of the doubt, so far as is good for you.
You will find that you will get your gun."

And then the King turned to Fiona.

"Young lady," he said, "you have given us a display of courage which
we are not likely to forget. You have rescued your friend; you have,
which is much more to the point, rescued your enemy. You have got
_two_ wishes out of us, which no one ever did before; and you have
asked nothing for yourself. And now what are we to do for you?"

"I think I have everything I want, now, thank your Majesty," said
Fiona.

"Did we not hear talk of a treasure?" said the King.

"Yes," said Fiona; "but--I was not thinking about a treasure, your
Majesty."

"I know," said the King. "But I was; all the time."

"I must leave it all in your Majesty's hands," said Fiona.

"It is not here," said the King. "What you saw was only a pretence.
And we cannot send for it to-night. But if you will honor us sometime
by returning to our kingdom, we will see what can be done in memory of
your visit. Any time you like. And by the front door, please. You will
run no risks that way."

"And now," said the King, stretching out his sceptre over the great
throng, "we will dance." He turned to Fiona and the Urchin. "It will
be a little while before Mr. Johnson is ready to accompany you home,"
he said. "Perhaps you will honor us meanwhile by attending the dance
also."

So the fairies danced before the King; and the fairy ring whirled and
blazed with the color of them, till it was gayer than a gorse-bank in
blossom, and brighter than a swarm of dragon-flies on a June
grass-field, and more vivid than a fall of shooting stars; and the
music that they made was wilder than the wind in the strings of a
harp, and sweeter than the blackbird's song, and dearer than all the
burns on the moor murmuring in unison. And the two children sat at the
King's feet on the steps of the beryl throne and watched the dancers;
and the Chancellor sat between them, and held Fiona's hand, and told
them such stories as they had never heard before, till between
laughter and tears they nearly fell off the steps of the throne, and
the Chancellor laughed and cried with them for sheer joy in his own
story-telling; and if there were three happier people in the world
that night I do not know where they were. And the night itself passed
away as a dream that men dream, and its hours seemed to them but as a
few minutes--and then across the music and the dance cut the shrill
harsh scream of a peacock as he greeted the day. The children saw the
King rise from his throne and stretch his sceptre out over the ring;
and the ring and the dancers were shrouded in a white mist which rose
from the ground and wreathed its arms about them; and the beryl throne
dissolved in mist, and the figure of the King above them, pointing,
grew dim and huge, and spread and grew, a purple shadow that hung over
them, . . . and they were standing alone in the fairy ring on
Glenollisdal, under the purple sky, with the white mist wreathing
itself about their feet, and the pale November dawn coming slowly up
out of the sea.

Did the Urchin fling himself on the grass at Fiona's feet and thank
her in broken accents for all she had done for him? I regret to state
that the first thing which the Urchin did was to feel in his pocket
and draw out the doubloon which he had found in the cave.

"I've got this one, anyhow, Fiona," he said. "But I wonder how I'm
going to get that gun."

Then something seemed to prick him; he began to look uncomfortable and
shuffle his feet, while his ears turned pink; and at last he managed
to blurt out:

"I say, Fiona, it was jolly decent of you, you know."

Fiona only smiled, the wise smile of perfect understanding.

       *       *       *       *       *

That morning the doctor was hastily summoned with the news that
Jeconiah was awake. The nurse met him in the passage, wide-eyed and
rather frightened.

"He's so strange," she said.

"Tut, tut," said the doctor; "told you he might wake like that. Kind
of change in personality? Just so. Often happens. Seldom permanent
though. What's he done?"

"Well, doctor, of course we all know Mr. Johnson's reputation," said
the nurse. "He's thanked me three times, and hoped I didn't tire
myself; and he had all the servants up and said he'd see their wages
were raised, and the cook gave notice on the spot because she said she
didn't like practical jokes; and he says he wants to go out and gather
buttercups and daisies, and play with the little frogs; and he's sent
for some old gun that he says he's got to buy for his nephew; and he
hasn't opened any of the telegrams that have been waiting for him; he
says he mayn't attend to business till he has learnt a fairy tale, and
he's had the library ransacked, and he's tearing his hair because
there's no such thing in it."

"Oh, well," said the doctor, "we must just have patience, nurse. I
expected something of the sort. Just humor him; if you can't find a
fairy tale, try him with a history book; he'll never know the
difference; and I'll send him up a nice soothing mixture. Very
interesting case; ve-ry interesting."

And the doctor, calling up his best professional smile, bustled into
Jeconiah's room.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the same afternoon, a still afternoon of Indian summer, that
the old hawker, accompanied again by the black terrier, was going down
the shore road. He must have had business at the cottage on the beach.
But his business was probably not urgent; for he stopped to watch with
interest a group on the shore. It consisted of Jeconiah and the
Urchin, and they sat on the little patch of sand at the mouth of the
burn. The Urchin had across his knees the rusty old gun bought for him
by Jeconiah, who had nevertheless exacted the doubloon from him in
exchange. He fingered the gun lovingly, while he gazed with
undisguised impatience at the proceedings of his uncle. Jeconiah's
coat lay on the grounds beside a sheaf of unopened telegrams, and he
was putting the finishing touches to a noble castle of sand; its
drawbridge was supported by his double watch chain, and its turrets
bore a suspicious resemblance in contour to the inside of his hat. He
patted his work and gazed at it with pride.

"Fine, isn't it?" he said.

"You'd better hurry up with that fairy tale," said the boy. "If you've
got to, you've got to, you know; and you won't keep me much once I get
some cartridges."

Jeconiah began to look alarmed.

"But I haven't found one yet," he said, and glanced anxiously at the
pile of telegrams.

"Make one up, then," said the boy. "Anybody can do it."

Thus adjured, Jeconiah started.

"Once upon a time there was a very grizzly old bear, and he lived in a
beautiful place called Capel Court, and he used to hunt the wild bulls
and the stags and the poor little guinea pigs that abounded in that
salubrious locality. And there were two young ladies there, called
Cora and Dora. . . ."

"Are those the princesses?" asked the boy.

"No, I think not," said Jeconiah. "They were of quite ordinary stock.
Well, the old bear thought they were too high and mighty, and that he
would like to take them down a point or two. . . ."

"Oh, this won't do," said the Urchin rudely. "This isn't a _real_
fairy tale at all. You must do something better than that."

The wretched Jeconiah groaned, and looked again at his telegrams. Then
he started afresh.

"Once upon a time there was a great dragon with seven heads, and he
ate seven princesses every day for dinner. . . ."

"That's better," said the boy, encouragingly, as he settled himself to
listen.

The old hawker resumed his walk.

"They haven't made a very good job of him, after all," he remarked
aloud, apparently to the terrier. "But I expect that sort is
incurable."

Was it a flicker of sunlight? Or did the black terrier really wink?



CHAPTER VIII

FIONA FINDS HER TREASURE


And Fiona?

Fiona sat on the hearthrug in the bookroom, and told her father the
whole story from beginning to end, as it has been told here. And
sometimes he asked a question, and sometimes he said, "Yes, that would
be so," and sometimes he stroked her hair and said nothing. And when
she had ended, he said, "So you never found your own treasure after
all, Fiona?"

She said, "I suppose I can have it now, if I go back."

"Do you think you will go back?" he asked.

She replied with another question.

"Have you found out what my treasure is, daddy?"

"I believe I could guess," he answered. "But you have found a good
many things already, apart from treasure, haven't you, little
daughter?"

She sat silent and looked into the fire.

"I suppose I have," she said.

"We won't enumerate them," said the Student. "It spoils things
entirely, sometimes, to put them into words. But I will tell you
something an old writer once said. He was talking of that particular
kind of treasure which men call Truth; and he said that if he were
offered Truth itself on the one hand, and the everlasting search for
it on the other hand, he would choose the search. I expect you can
understand that now; for you have seen what has happened to you over
your own search."

"I think I can understand," said Fiona. "I must be growing older,
daddy."

"You'll be too old soon to go back to Fairyland at all, little
daughter," said the Student. "If you are going, you will have to go at
once."

"What do you think, daddy?" she questioned.

"I can only tell you that, in my case, I went back," the Student
answered.

"Why, daddy, have you been in Fairyland too?" cried Fiona. "And you
never told me."

"Yes," said the Student. "Even a musty old scholar like myself was
young once, you know," and he looked into the fire with eyes which
seemed to see things very, very far away. "It was not quite the same
as the Fairyland you have been in, Fiona; but we called it Fairyland."

"Can't you come back with me if I go daddy?" asked the girl.

"I'm too old now, little daughter," he said. "For good or for bad, I
could never find the way again. I can only see it now through your
eyes. I'll come as far as the door with you, and that's all that an
old man can do. I suppose you know where the door is?"

"I never felt there was any doubt," said Fiona.

"Then we'll start first thing to-morrow, if it's calm enough," he
said.

But that evening was the last of the golden autumn; and when Fiona
woke in the morning, the Isle of Mist was justifying its name. The
southwest gale was raging round the house like a live animal, seizing
it and shaking it, and wailing in the chimneys pitifully, like an
unburied ghost; and before the gale the long lead-colored rollers were
racing in from the Atlantic, smashing themselves on the crags and
shooting up heavenward in columns of spray thrice the height of the
cliffs, while the noise of the surf in the Scargill cave came booming
across the water like the roar of a battleship's guns. The hills were
all shrouded in mist, and the mist was fine salt rain that rolled in
from the sea, driving in billows over the moor and across the fields;
the gulls were tossed about in it like little bits of waste paper, and
every green thing on the island opened its heart to the rain and drank
till it could drink no more. Toward evening Fiona and the Student, in
oilskins and sou'-westers, went down to the rocks and out seaward as
far as was possible, and there stood, unable to speak for the noise.
They balanced themselves against the gusts, and felt the tingling
drops of salt spray rattle like hail off their coats, while they
watched the cliff waterfalls, unable to fall for the wind, go straight
up heavenward in clouds of smoke, and the sea foam and tear at the
rocks below; and once for a moment the cloud-mist parted, and the
hills started out, their dark sides all gashed and seamed with white
streaks where every tiny runlet and burn was rushing in spate down
toward the sea. Fiona managed to shout, with her clear young voice,
"No one can really love this island who only knows it in summer;" and
then they went home, out of the dusk and the lashing of the wet wind,
to the quiet bookroom and tea things, and lamps, and books; for man
may love Nature, but he loves still better the contrast between Nature
and the things which he has fashioned for himself.

For three weeks the wind blew; and though there were days when the
sea-mist lifted, there was no day on which the sea was calm enough for
the launching of their small boat. Then one afternoon came change. The
warm air turned chill, and the warm rain became sleet; that night the
wind backed to the north, and next day was a blizzard of snow. And the
night after the wind fell away, and the snow ceased, and Orion and his
two dogs shone huge in a frosty sky; and Fiona woke to the glories of
a scarlet sunrise on a great field of white.

"We must hurry, daddy," she said. "It's perfectly calm."

"It's a pet day," said the Student, sniffing the air. "It won't last;
the wind backed too suddenly. But it's all right till sunset."

Directly breakfast was over they launched the little boat, and
started. The snow shone white in the sunshine, and the calm sea
against the snow was as blue as a blue lotus; but the shadows on the
snow were a wonder, and the woven complexity of their colorings would
have taxed every hue on an artist's palette. So they pulled down and
into the cave, at whose mouth the great bluff looked barer and blacker
than ever against the world's whiteness; and they grounded their boat
and climbed the rock barrier. There the Student sat down and filled
and lit his pipe.

"This is as far as I can go," he said. "If I mistake not, you will
find that they have opened the door for you."

So Fiona went on to the recess where the Urchin had found the
doubloon, and where the torch had been smashed in her father's hand;
and the solid wall of the cliff had opened, and there was an archway
leading into the black vaulting of the long cave behind. Fiona passed
through into the darkness . . . and the darkness parted to right and
left of her, and she stood again in the fairy ring where she had stood
on All Hallows E'en.

But how changed. Of all the bright throng of fairies that had
clustered round it, not one stood there to-day. The circle of scarlet
toadstools was broken down and shattered, as though by a great storm;
and the ring itself was no longer grass, but was covered deep in snow.
Of all the things she had seen there that evening, only one remained.
The beryl throne still stood lonely in the midst of the bare ring; and
on the throne sat the King of the Fairies. His face rested on his
hand, as though he were deep in thought; his eyes were looking at
something far away. On the steps of the throne sat the Chancellor, the
King's inseparable friend; and he, too, was deep in thought. It was a
view of the fairy world which Fiona had never expected.

The King must have heard her step, for he rose from his throne and
came down to meet her.

"Have you come for your treasure, Fiona?" he said.

And she said, "I have come because you asked me to come back."

The King held out his sceptre to her; and again the mist came up from
the ground and enwrapped the beryl throne, and the figures of the
King and the Chancellor wavered and became dim before her. _Were_ they
the King and the Chancellor? Was not what she saw, so dim through the
mist, the figures of the shepherd who had helped her on Glenollisdal
and his black collie? But the mist was wavering again about them, and
again all was a blur; and then the mist suddenly cleared, and there
was no one there at all but just the old hawker and the little terrier
which followed him.

"So you were the King of the Fairies all the time," said Fiona.

"All the time," said the old man gently. "We go about in the world as
you see us. And some still entertain angels unaware. Have you come for
your treasure, Fiona?"

And this time Fiona answered, "Yes."

"You have earned it," said the King. "And you have found much more
than any treasure. Your father has told you that?"

And again Fiona said, "Yes."

"I cannot really give you your treasure," said the King, "for you
have it already. I think you have had it all the time; but you did not
know. But now you have learnt."

"What is it?" asked Fiona. "But I think I can guess now."

"It is the spirit of the island which you love," said the King, "and
which henceforth loves you. You have spoken face to face with bird and
beast and with the beings who knew and loved the land before your race
was. To-day you have the freedom of the island, and of all living
things in it; they are your friends forever. And to the dead in its
graveyards you are kin. All that is there has passed into your blood,
the old lost loves, the old impossible loyalties, the old forgotten
heroisms and tendernesses; all these are yours; and yours are the
songs that were sung long ago, and the tales which were told by the
fireside; and the deeds of the men and women of old have become part
of you. You can walk now through the crowded city and never know it,
for the wind from the heather will be about you where you go; you can
stand in the tumult of men and never hear them, for round you will be
the silence of your own sea. That is the treasure of the Isle of Mist;
the island has given you of its soul. You have found greater things
already; you will find greater things yet again. But such as it is, it
is the best gift which we of the fairy world have to give."

"And now," continued the King, "you will not see us again. And I will
take back the bracelet. It would be no further use to you, for you are
no longer a child. You are too old for Fairyland."

"But my father could see you," said Fiona.

"He could only see me as I really am through your eyes," said the
King. "It may be that some day you too will see me again through the
eyes of a child. But for the present it is farewell."

So Fiona stooped down and stroked the little dog, who looked at her
with wistful eyes, and took her farewell of the King; and the King
raised his hand, and the mist rose again and enwrapped the fairy ring
and those in it . . . and Fiona walked out through the archway into
the cave, and there sat the Student on the rock barrier, just as she
had left him, knocking the ashes out of his pipe. And even as she came
to him there was a noise behind her, and when she looked round it was
to see the archway blocked by a great fall of rock.

"You will not use that way again, little daughter," said the Student.

"I shall not use any way again now, daddy," she said. "I am too old.
But oh, daddy, it has been worth it."

Then they launched their boat and paddled slowly out of the cave, out
of the dark into daylight; and before them lay the quiet sea bathed in
the winter sun, and the Isle of Mist dreaming under its mantle of
white.


THE END.



_A Selection from the
Catalogue of_

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

[Illustration]

Complete Catalogues sent
on application



THE MOON POOL

BY A. MERRITT

Romance, real romance, and wonderful adventure,--absolutely
impossible, yet utterly probable! A story one almost regrets having
read, since one can then no longer read it for the first time. Once in
the proverbial blue moon there comes to the fore an author who can
conceive and write such a tale. Here is one!

Few indeed will forget, who, with the Professor, watch the mystic
approach of the Shining One down the moon path,--who follow with him
and the others the path below the Moon Pool, beyond the Door of the
Seven Lights;--and would there were more characters in fiction like
Lakla the lovely and Larry O'Keefe the lovable.

Perhaps you readers will know who were those weird and awe-inspiring
Silent Ones.


G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
NEW YORK      LONDON



Visions and Beliefs in
the West of Ireland

By Lady Gregory

With Two Essays and Notes by W. B. Yeats
_Two Volumes. 12º_


To those who have felt the haunting charm that inheres in the Celtic
consciousness of an imminent supernaturalism, this collection of Irish
fancy, belief, and folk-lore, gathered from the lips of the people
with patient and reverent care, will have particular value. It has
interest as an exceptionally thorough and representative study of
psychic sensitiveness in Ireland, and the slightness of the barrier
between worlds seen and unseen.


G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York      London



The Substance
of a Dream

By F. W. Bain


"In this new and wholly charming Hindu story a very old world speaks
to us, but one that has not lost its childhood with age and
sophistication. It is a world of innocent voluptuousness where passion
is not contrary to faith but is itself faith.

"Mr. Bain's people have character, as there are colors in moonlight, a
character with a common beauty in all its diversities; and because of
its utter and inner harmony, this creation of his has a very rare
beauty."


G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York      London



Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the
original edition have been corrected.

In Chapter II, a quotation mark was deleted after "the love of worms
was the root of all evil".

In Chapter III, a quotation mark was added after "if you could wait a
few minutes . . .".

In Chapter IV, _said Fiona," and you wriggle so."_ was changed to
_said Fiona, "and you wriggle so."_, and _"Urchin," she shouted;
"Urchin.'_ was changed to _"Urchin," she shouted; "Urchin."_

In Chapter V, quotation marks were added after "Go up a hill." and
"the true cave at all."





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